New Pre-Trial Procedures in the Sixth Circuit May Be At Hand

Civil trial lawyers in Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco counties) may soon be subject to a new set of rules governing pre-trial procedures.

Civil trial lawyers in Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco counties) may soon be subject to a new set of rules governing pre-trial procedures, one requiring a much more trial-focused approach to civil litigation. Here’s a draft of a proposed uniform pre-trial order that has been circulated for comment.

From a trial preparation standpoint several proposals are noteworthy:

  • Counsel will now be required to list impeachment and rebuttal witnesses and exhibits in a disclosure at least 45 days before the pre-trial conference.
  • Discovery must be completed no later than 45 days before the pre-trial conference (meaning that paper discovery must be timed to require responses no later than the 45 day deadline).
  • Motions in limine and Frye motions must be heard prior to the pre-trial conference.
  • Deposition designations and objections must be submitted no later than the pre-trial conference. Objections, as well as the video editing process, must be resolved prior to the first day of trial.
  • Plaintiff’s counsel must supply a set of proposed jury instructions and verdict form no later than 3 days before the pre-trial conference and defendant’s counsel shall only submit special instructions and any omitted standard instructions on the date of the conference.
  • Plaintiff’s counsel shall be prepared to negotiate settlement at the pre-trial conference and must bring to the conference a computed settlement figure that counsel has been authorized to accept based on liability and damages that can be proven.
  • Prior to the pre-trial conference, counsel are obligated to exchange memoranda regarding unique questions of law that may arise at trial.

These procedures, if implemented, will require trial attorneys to pay more attention to discovery deadlines, to think more thoroughly about the entire case presentation, not just the case-in-chief, and to address a variety of issues, both legal and evidentiary, much earlier in the litigation. The typical first morning of trial motion in limine hearing will be a thing of the past. The settlement proposal requirement will require an evidence-based approach to negotiations. These proposals will force civil “litigators” to act more like trial lawyers. I think clients and the court will benefit in the process.

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