Donald M Middlebrooks
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:
Southern District of Florida
Location of Chambers:
701 Clematis Street #257 West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
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?
Use of Cell Phones, Laptops, and Other Electronics in Court
Other than procedures adopted by the U.S. Marshal's Service relating to access to a federal courthouse, do you have any additional procedures to be followed for the use of cell phones, laptops, or other electronics?
Parties must file a motion to bring laptops and other electronic equipment into courthouse.
Is there a designated court staff person to contact relating to the use of electronic media or other audiovisual needs?
*Always verify with the Clerk of Court or the U.S. Marshal's Service as to any procedures relating to the use of cell phones or other electronic devices at the courthouse.
Always verify with the Clerk of Court or the U.S. Marshal's Service as to any procedures relating to the use of cell phones or other electronic devices at the courthouse.
In addition to Local Rules or CM/ECF procedures applicable in the District:
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?
Proposed orders should be filed as an exhibit to a motion on CM/ECF and also emailed to chambers.
Should proposed orders be submitted in a format which can be edited, or is a PDF version acceptable?
Proposed orders should be in a format which can be edited.
Pretrial Procedure (Criminal)
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial conferences in criminal cases?
Do you conduct suppression hearings or do you refer them to a Magistrate Judge?
I generally conduct suppression hearings.
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?
For West Palm Beach cases, I conduct the plea hearing. For Miami and Ft. Pierce cases, plea hearings are often referred to a Magistrate Judge.
Do you have a regular plea deadline?
If YES, when is that deadline?
The plea deadline is set forth in the order setting trial.
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
Such pleas are accepted only in extraordinary circumstances.
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
Such pleas are accepted in all but the most extraordinary circumstances.
Pretrial Procedure (Civil)
Do you conduct preliminary pretrial hearings, e.g., pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16?
If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during preliminary pretrial hearings?
Witnesses, exhibits, length of trial, time limits on opening and closing statements, etc.
Do you have any requirements, beyond those found in the Federal Rules and the Local Rules, as to ex parte temporary restraining orders?
Require service upon opposing counsel in all but limited circumstances.
Do you hear preliminary injunction motions?
If YES, do you permit evidence to be introduced?
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?
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
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?
Mediation is ordered in every case.
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?
The procedure is set forth in the pretrial scheduling order.
Do you have any special procedures for the settlement of FLSA cases?
Parties must file a motion to approve an FLSA settlement agreement. The settlement agreement must be filed with the motion.
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 YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial 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)?
24 hours, but will provide as much notice as possible.
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?
In my experience we have been able to reach all matters on our calendar.
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?
Substantial latitude is accorded in cases of agreement between counsel. Editing of video taped deposition needs to be accomplished prior to trial, unless opposing counsel has been notified prior to trial, very little latitude is given in use of such demonstration evidence.
Do you require trial briefs in jury trials?
Do you require trial briefs in bench trials?
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
The Court will impose only time limits depending on the nature of the case.
If NO, can counsel submit proposed voir dire questions?
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
In criminal cases, they are handled at side bar, having examined the entire venire, jurors by juror challenges accepted one by one, government first, until a full panel is selected with no back striking. In civil, we follow the same procedure, but alternate who announces first between the plaintiff and defendant.
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 allow back striking during jury selection?
Do you impose any standard time limits on counsel's opening statements?
If YES, what are the time limits?
However, time limits will be established after discussion with counsel.
Can exhibits be used in opening statements?
Do you allow plaintiffs to make a rebuttal during opening statements?
Do you permit jurors to take notes?
Do you permit jurors to ask questions?
If YES, under what constraints and restrictions?
In criminal caeses, I allow jurors to submit questions in writing. I then present any questions to the lawyers, who may ask the questions, if appropriate. More latitude is provided in civil cases.
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Objections should be made by rule number or brief description only. ie. "hearsay," "leading," without argument. Responses are not appropriate unless requested. Side bars rarely considered necessary, so notice of anticipated evidentiary issues should be provided before the jury is seated.
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
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?
At least one(1) week prior to trial.
Should the proposed findings and conclusions also be submitted to chambers electronically?
Do you require sentencing memos from the parties?
If counsel anticipates a contested or extensive sentencing hearing, should counsel notify the court?
If you are considering an upward departure under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, do you provide notice orally or in writing?
In cases of variance, I advise counsel orally at sentencing and allow counsel to present argument. In cases of upward departures, Rule 32(h) is followed.
In a proceeding for a violation of supervised release conditions, do you personally conduct the admissions/findings of fact hearing or do you refer this to a Magistrate Judge?
Generally, for West Palm Beach and Miami cases, I conduct hearings on supervised release violations. I generally refer these hearings to the Magistrate Judge in Ft. Pierce cases.
Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you?
Courtesy between counsel, timliness, and preparation are appreciated. Last minute and/or boiler plate motions for continuances are unlikely to be granted. Attorneys should notify the Court regarding vacation plans and/or conflicts as early as possible in order to have them accommodated consistent with the effective scheduling of cases.