Judge Winmill's Trial Procedures
Setting a Trial Date: If the Judge’s ruling on dispositive motions does not resolve the case, the Judge or his staff will conduct a telephonic status conference shortly after all dispositive motions have been ruled upon for the purpose of setting a trial date and a pretrial conference. Plaintiff’s counsel shall contact the Courtroom Deputy within one week following the entry of a decision on all pending dispositive motions to make arrangements for the telephonic trial setting conference between counsel and Judge Winmill. If no dispositive motion is filed, Plaintiff’s counsel shall contact the Courtroom Deputy within one week after the dispositive motion filing deadline to set the telephonic trial setting conference. At the trial setting conference, a date for the trial and the pretrial conference will be set, and deadlines will also be established for the submission of motions in limine, trial exhibit lists, trial witness lists, proposed voir dire to be asked of the jury, and jury instructions.
Rule 702 Motions: In cases involving serious Daubert issues, the parties shall contact the law clerk handling the case two weeks after the trial setting conference to determine whether a hearing is necessary.
Exhibits/Witness Lists: The Court encourages the parties to meet prior to the pretrial conference to discuss issues related to the trial, such as stipulations regarding the admissibility of exhibits. Exhibit and witness lists are due two weeks prior to trial, unless the order setting the trial date establishes a different deadline.
Pretrial Conference: The pretrial conference will be scheduled at least two weeks prior to the date of the trial. The pretrial conference is held in person in complex cases and by telephone in all other cases unless otherwise ordered. At the pretrial conference, the Court will discuss its general trial preferences, jury instructions will be discussed, and an agreement will be reached as to whether jurors will be allowed to ask questions of the witnesses. By the time of the pretrial conference, counsel will be expected to have met and tried to resolve most, if not all, objections to proposed trial exhibits. At the pretrial conference, the Judge will work with counsel to resolve as many other evidentiary objections as possible.
Motions in Limine: It is anticipated that motions in limine will be argued at the pretrial conference, and if possible, decided.
Judge Winmill uses the Struck Jury System for jury selection.
Judge Winmill conducts most voir dire of the jury panel, but allows counsel 20-30 minutes each for follow-up.Counsel are encouraged to submit proposed questions for Judge Winmill to use in his voir dire of the jury.
Trials will typically begin on Monday at 1:30 p.m. Thereafter, trials will be conducted Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with two 15-minute recesses per day.
Plaintiff’s counsel will be expected to provide defense counsel at the beginning of the trial with a rolling list of the witnesses they expect to call, and the order in which they will be are called.The list must be updated so that defense counsel is aware of any changes in the order of witnesses, at least 36 hours in advance.Defense counsel will be subject to the same requirement after they begin presenting their case.
Jury Instructions: The Court will try to conduct at least 2 or 3 informal jury instruction conferences off the record to try and resolve most differences by agreement. Those sessions will be held at the end of the trial day and may stretch into the evening. At the end of those sessions, the Court and the parties typically will have refined the issues of contention so that the court can give you a set of final instructions, and you can state your objections on the record.
Avoid Jury Contact: Counsel are responsible for advising their clients, their witnesses, and everyone associated with their clients to avoid all contact with the jurors. This prohibition includes seemingly innocuous behavior like riding on an elevator with a juror, saying hello to a juror, or even acknowledging the juror’s presence.
Speaking Objections Not Permitted: During the time the jury is in the jury box, no argument, beyond one-sentence evidentiary objections, shall be allowed to interrupt the flow of testimony. Almost all objections should be stated in one to three words (“hearsay”, “asked & answered”, “irrelevant”, etc.). If counsel have matters that need to be resolved outside the presence of the jury, they are to advise the Court and counsel prior to the issue arising during trial so that it can be heard during a recess, or before or after the jury convenes. Where the need for such a hearing cannot be anticipated, the Court will direct the examining counsel to avoid the objectionable subject and continue on a different line of questioning so that the objection can be argued and resolved at the next recess. To avoid late-night sessions, counsel are advised to bring up all anticipated evidentiary questions in their pretrial briefs.