Steven D Merryday
The following information was provided in response to a survey prepared by the Federal Court Practice Committee of The Florida Bar. This information is not binding on any judge or court official and may not be relied upon for precedential purposes. Further information may be found in the attachments (sample orders, etc.) referenced at the end of this Guide entry or on the court's website noted below.
Name of Court:
Middle District of Florida
Location of Chambers:
801 N. Florida Avenue, Suite 1530, Tampa, FL 33602
Howard (Bill) Jones
Communication with Chambers
Do you permit contact with chambers regarding questions of procedure?
Do you permit contact with chambers regarding the status of pending matters?
May counsel contact chambers to speak with your law clerks(s) on procedural matters?
May counsel contact chambers to speak with your law clerks(s) on the status of pending matters?
In addition to Local Rules or CM/ECF procedures applicable in the District:
Do you have a preferred method governing the filing of sealed documents?
See Local Rule 1.09
Do you prefer that (non-trial) exhibits and depositions be filed conventionally as well as on CM/ECF?
Do you prefer to have proposed orders (other than those required to be filed in the case) submitted as an attachment to documents filed in CM/ECF, or do you prefer to receive them by email or another method?
Counsel may obtain permission to e-mail a proposed order to chambers. A proposed order should not be filed on CM/ECF.
Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable?
Proposed orders should be in WordPerfect format.
Pretrial Procedure (Criminal)
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during a preliminary pretrial conference?
Counsel are directed to file monthly status reports.
Do you require the defendant to be present at status conferences?
If YES, do you have the same policy for defendants in custody and for defendants on bond?
Do you conduct hearings on pretrial motions to dismiss or to sever?
Do you take the plea or do you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge?
Referred to the Magistrate Judge.
If you regularly refer plea hearings to a Magistrate Judge, what circumstances would permit the parties to have a plea hearing before you?
Do you have a regular plea deadline?
If NO, is a plea deadline set at pretrial conferences?
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
Disfavors nolo contendere and Alford pleas.
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
Considers sentencing recommendations, but advises that they are not binding on the Court.
Pretrial Procedure (Civil)
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings, e.g., pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16?
Do you have any requirements, beyond those found in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules, as to motions for extension of time or motions for continuance?
Other than as required by Local Rules, do you prefer that the moving parties submit proposed orders along with non-dispositive motions?
Do you have any requirements, beyond those found in the Federal Rules and the Local Rules, as to ex parte temporary restraining orders?
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 and Local Rule 4.05.
Do you hear preliminary injunction motions?
If NO, do you routinely refer preliminary injunctions for report and recommendation by a Magistrate Judge?
Should copies of published cases cited in motions and memoranda be forwarded to chambers?
Should copies of unpublished cases cited in motions and memoranda be forwarded to chambers?
If copies of cases are submitted, do you accept copies that have portions highlighted by counsel?
Do you regularly set aside time during a given week/month for hearings on motions?
What is your practice concerning oral arguments on referred dispositive motions?
If the Court determines that oral argument would be helpful, a hearing will be set and counsel will be notified.
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
When record is sufficiently mature to permit fair and informed decision.
Other than those discovery schedules contained in Local Rules, do you have special discovery deadlines or procedures for certain types of cases (ERISA, FLSA, etc.)?
Do you routinely refer discovery matters to a Magistrate Judge?
When a dispute arises during a deposition, is it appropriate to call your chambers (if the case has been referred for discovery) to seek an immediate ruling?
What is your preference regarding the use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation?
Highly encouraged. Every case is referred to mediation.
Do you require counsel to submit a proposed order referring the case to mediation?
Do you have a procedure for counsel to request referral to a Magistrate Judge for settlement conferences?
Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases?
Do you automatically set civil cases for trial or do you wait for counsel to propose a time period in which a case should be scheduled for trial?
Do you grant specially set trial dates (dates certain)?
If NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?
Attempts to notify counsel at least two days in advance of the start of trial.
What is your practice or procedure regarding rescheduling trials that are not reached on a trial docket, e.g., will the trial date be automatically rescheduled on your next trial docket?
Do you conduct pretrial conferences?
Do you conduct Daubert hearings prior to trial?
What, if any, procedural requirements do you have regarding the use of videotapes, trial graphics, depositions, and demonstrations?
Counsel may present videotaped material at trial with the Court's permission. Does not allow undue inflection or other unseemly elaborations by counsel or others during the reading of depositions at trial.
Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
If you require trial briefs, when are they due?
Agreed time before trial.
Do you have any requirements for trial briefs?
Page limit for trial briefs based on the complexity of the issues. May request a WordPerfect copy of the trial brief.
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
None has ever asked and several have declined.
If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
Counsel may submit proposed questions in writing no later than the first day of trial. Proposed questions are discussed with counsel immediately preceding the start of trial.
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
After voir dire is complete, the judge calls counsel to the bench and the challenges are made outside the hearing of the prospective jurors. Judge Merryday then calls the names of the jurors who were chosen and dismisses the others.
In multiple party cases, do you grant each party three peremptory challenges?
If NO, do you limit each side (i.e., plaintiff/defense) to a total of three peremptory challenges to be shared?
Do you impose any standard time limits on counsel's opening statements?
Can exhibits be used in opening statements?
Do you permit jurors to take notes?
Do you permit jurors to ask questions?
If YES, under what constraints and restrictions?
Court reviews question in advance. May allow counsel an opportunity to pursue the subject first.
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Counsel must stand and state the legal basis for the objection. Will invite argument if necessary
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
No later than four days before the first day of trial.
Should jury instructions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
When standard jury instructions are available, do you prefer that attorneys submit condensed versions of the standard instructions?
Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed in bench trials?
If YES, when do you require the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed?
Will be determined at the conclusion of trial.
Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
Do you require sentencing memos from the parties?
If NO, may parties file a sentencing memo?
If counsel anticipates a contested or extensive sentencing hearing, should counsel notify the court?
Counsel should notify the Court if the hearing is expected to take longer than thirty minutes.