John E Steele
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:
Fort Myers, Florida
Brenda M. Alexander
Jeffrey G. Thomas
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?
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?
The Court conducts status conferences each month to discuss whether the cases set for the trial term in the coming month is ready to proceed, how many days the trial is expected to last, and/or whether a plea may be possible.
Do you conduct suppression hearings or do you refer them to a Magistrate Judge?
Motions to Suppress are normally referred to the Magistrate Judge.
Do you conduct hearings on pretrial motions to dismiss or to sever?
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
The Court will not accept these pleas.
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
Recommendations are permitted as long as 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?
If YES, what matters do you typically discuss during preliminary pretrial hearings?
Preliminary hearings are handled by the Magistrate Judge.
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?
Upon filing, the motion will be considered. If it is granted, the Court may impose a bond, direct service of process, and set a hearing for a preliminary injunction.
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?
If YES, when is your normal hearing date/time?
Pretrial Conferences and criminal hearings and sentencings are normally heard on Mondays.
Under what circumstances do you allow telephonic hearings?
Upon motion by the parties, the Court will consider such a request liberally.
What is your practice concerning oral arguments on referred dispositive motions?
Oral arguments are not normally conducted unless requested by the Court.
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
The motions should be filed by the deadline set forth in the Case Management and Scheduling Order.
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.)?
If YES, what types of cases and what are the deadlines or procedures?
ERISA; Hague Convention and ICARA; and IDEA. Deadlines vary with the type of case.
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?
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?
Only if there are issues of unavailability will a case be set for a date certain or just prior to the beginning of the trial term.
If NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?
As per the Trial Calendar issued in the case, however, the Courtroom Deputy endeavors to provide as much notice as possible.
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?
The courtroom is equipped to aid in the presentation of evidence. Any additional electronic equipment the parties may require must be approved by motion and order.
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?
As per the deadline in the Case Management and Scheduling Order.
Do you have any requirements for trial briefs?
No special requirements.
Do you permit counsel to perform voir dire?
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
The questions must be limited to follow-up questions to the Judge's conducted voir dire or otherwise be pre-approved.
If NO, can counsel submit proposed voir dire questions?
If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
Prior to the Pretrial Conference
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
They are done at side bar and no back striking is permitted.
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?
Depends on the parties and the case.
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?
During deliberations only and by written note.
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Please stand when making the objection. Counsel should stop speaking when an objection is presented by opposing counsel to await a ruling.
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
It is not required but strongly advised.
Do you require proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be filed in bench trials?
What should lawyers avoid at all costs when appearing before you (other than the obvious: don't be late, do be courteous, etc.), i.e., do you have any "pet peeves"?
The failure to cite Eleventh Circuit case law.