Mary Patricia C Fawsett
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:
401 W. Central Blvd., Ste 6750 Orlando, Florida 32801-0675
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?
Time for trial, unusual issues in the case, length of time for suppression hearing and if it can be conducted as part of trial, counsel conflicts in scheduling, when jury instructions, witness list, and verdict will be filed, whether Rule will be invoked, length of time for opening statements, etc.
Do you conduct hearings on pretrial motions to dismiss or to sever?
What is your policy concerning nolo contendere or Alford pleas?
I do not accept.
What is your policy as to plea agreements that involve sentencing recommendations?
As long as it is a recommendation and does not purport to be binding in the court, such recommendation(s) will be considered but not necessarily followed. A plea agreement that is conditioned on a particular sentence will not be accepted.
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 and the Local Rules, as to ex parte temporary restraining orders?
See 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?
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?
Due to the trial schedule in this Division, oral arguments on summary judgment and other dispositive motions are not often held. However, they will be scheduled if the Court has questions about the facts or laws which are not addressed in motion papers. Hearings on motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction are often held if contested.
Will you entertain motions in limine prior to trial?
If YES, how far in advance should they be filed?
The deadline for filing is stated in the Case Management Scheduling Order .
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?
If YES, under what circumstances will you grant trial dates certain?
If the trial calendar for that month allows such "luxury;" usually there are more cases to try than days in the month or the attorneys cannot commit to a precise length of trial.
If NO, what is your policy regarding notice for trial during a trial docket (e.g., will you give at least 48 hours' notice)?
You will be given 24 hours notice. Counsel in a particular case are encouraged to keep in contact with counsel in cases listed prior to the particular case to ascertain when that case(s) will be concluded. The trial calendar is published and lists the order of cases for trial and the attorneys.
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 should check with my courtroom deputy prior to trial on the use of equipment and demonstrations. Please see pages 8 and 9 of attached form Order for civil cases. My courtroom has an unusual configuration which limits the use of certain equipment.The court also has equipment which counsel may use.
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?
They are due no later than ten days before the trial term commences.
If YES, what guidelines or restrictions must counsel follow when conducting voir dire?
Do not repeat questions previously asked. Ask questions to elicit relevant facts. Do not attempt to "win over" or persuade the jury, as in a closing statement, in being afforded this opportunity. Stay within time limit.
If NO, can counsel submit proposed voir dire questions?
If YES, when should such questions be submitted?
With the Joint Final Pretrial Statement.
What are your peremptory challenge procedures?
In civil cases, plaintiffs and defendants alternate one challenge at a time unless one party tenders with challenges remaining and the opposing side exercises a challenge. The procedure differs in criminal cases. The courtroom Deputy sends litigants a sheet which explains the jury selection process.
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?
Sometimes a juror will write a note which is neither solicited nor suggested by the Court.
What, if any, procedures do you have concerning objections at trial?
Follow Local Rule 5.03(12)
When do you require counsel to file proposed jury instructions?
With the filing of the Joint Final Pretrial Statement.
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?
They are due no later than ten days before the trial term commences.
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"?
1. Counsel who do not directly answer a question from the Court. 2. Counsel who are not forthright. 3. Counsel who abuse the jurors by failing to stick to the facts on the issues during trial or who ask redundant questions. 4. Counsel who have not read the cases cited in the briefs. 5. Counsel who fail to cite relevant cases that are on point or who fail to cite to the appropriate portions of the record or motion for summary judgment.
Do you have any other practice pointers, advice, observations, or suggestions for members of the Bar appearing before you?
Be professional to opposing counsel. I will give you time to be heard. Jurors are deeply offended by bad manners of counsel toward each other, witnesses, or the parties. What you may feel is common and usual "sparring" between counsel is viewed with alarm and great discomfort by jurors who are not part of this culture.