Judicial Preferences


Judge Charles E. Butler Civil Case Management Preferences


Updated: September 1, 2017

For Attorneys & Legal Staff Only:

Shelly Beane, Administrative Specialist
Chambers
Phone: (302) 255-0656


Adrienne Fernandez, Judicial Civil Case Manager
Prothonotary's Office
Phone (302) 255-0785


Megan N. Kinley, Law Clerk
Chambers
Phone:(302) 255-0649


Fax Numbers:

Chambers Fax: (302) 255-2273 *

Prothonotary Fax: (302) 255-2598 *


*Please advise the Administrative Specialist or Civil Case Manager by phone or email that a FAX transmission has been or is about to be sent to chambers or the prothonotary.

All correspondence directed to Judge Butler must be signed by an attorney in the law firm of the attorney of record.

If you are requesting Court action of some kind (in instances where a motion is otherwise not appropriate) you must state the position of all parties or otherwise represent that opposing counsel or self-represented party could not be reached. If you are requesting a Court Order, please attach a form of Order for the Court.

Email should not be directed to Judge Butler without prior approval by the Court or in the event of an exigent circumstance. If an email is directed to Judge Butler, please copy his administrative assistant as well.

Administrative emails are not docketed. If you wish to make a record of the content of your email, please docket its content in a letter including the civil action number.

Substantive emails are docketed and must copy all counsel and include the civil action number. Email is not appropriate when a party is self-represented.

Comments or questions from lawyers, paralegals and other legal staff about Judge Butler's preferences are welcome and should be directed to his administrative assistant.

Related Cases:

Counsel should always identify any 'related' Superior Court cases on the Case Information Statement filed with the complaint or with the answer so that the new case is assigned to the same judge. If counsel belatedly realizes that the Case Information Statement omitted reference to another pending case and that the subsequent civil case was assigned to a different judge, please promptly notify the Judicial Case Manager for the judge assigned to the subsequently filed case.

Initial Scheduling:

After all responsive pleading(s) are filed, the Court will issue a Trial Scheduling Order. Judge Butler believes a scheduling order should be tailored to fit the needs of the parties and the case.

Establishing a Trial Date:

Upon the filing of the last responsive pleading, Judge Butler's civil case manager will issue a Trial Availability Letter. The letter will contain a list of available dates for trial. The parties should discuss and agree to at least one trial date, circle the date and e-file it with the Court. The Court staff will then "back fill" the deadlines for expert reports and dispositive motions and issue a Trial Scheduling Order.

The Court recognizes that in some cases, the parties are anxious to resolve their matter quickly and the "normal" pattern of discovery may be truncated due to relatively simple issues of fact or agreement/stipulation of the parties. The Court is happy to accommodate expedited resolutions, even by trial, and encourages the parties to advise the Case Manager if that is their wish.

Judge Butler's standard form Scheduling Order will contain standard, or "normal" time expectations between scheduled events. If the parties do not agree to dates within the normal range, they should contact the civil case manager, who may direct the parties to schedule a conference call with the Court.

Trial Scheduling Orders:

Trial Scheduling Orders, once entered, are Orders of the Court. Compliance is not optional with the parties. Deviation from a Scheduling Order should be undertaken only upon approval by the Court. If a request for deviation or modification of a scheduling order is unopposed or jointly requested, Judge Butler will sign such Orders as a matter of course. The only exception is deviations that alter the scheduled trial date. The parties should understand that if a trial date must be rescheduled because a party defaulted on its discovery obligations, it is likely the Court will impose a sanction on the defaulting party. If the amended scheduling Order seeks to shrink the time between the deadline for filing case dispositive motions and the pretrial conference, the parties should indicate in the request for amendment whether either party intends to file a case dispositive motion as this may bear upon the Court's willingness to approve the requested amendment.

Appeals From Administrative Agencies, Boards, Commission and Courts:

Oral argument is held in administrative appeals only if requested by the Court.

Formatting:

All briefs and motions should have one-inch margins and be written in 14 pt. Times New Roman font and double-spaced. Exhibits to briefs, courtesy copies of motions, or letters must be individually tabbed. No briefs, exhibits, or appendices may be clipped or fastened with paper clips, binder clips, or metal three-ring fasteners, but must be stapled or bound. Case citations shall use Westlaw format for unreported decisions where possible; the Superior Court does not presently have ready capability to utilize Lexis. Exhibits and unreported cases not cited in Westlaw should be physically attached to the briefs and motions unless impractical because of their volume, in which case a separate compendium is appropriate. When responding to a motion, avoid using terms and phrases typically used in answers to complaints (e.g., Admitted, Denied as Stated, etc.) in numbered paragraphs corresponding to the numbered paragraphs in the motion.

Routine Motions:

Judge Butler hears routine motions every Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. Routine motions must indicate whether they are opposed or unopposed. Unopposed motions need not be noticed for a routine motions calendar as they will be "so Ordered" by the Court from chambers. Motions that are opposed must be filed 10 days prior (excluding weekends and holidays) to the noticed date. Opposition papers responsive to the motion are due the Monday prior to presentation. If opposition is unknown, assume it is opposed. If no response is filed before the Monday of the week in which the motion is to be heard, it will likely be granted as unopposed.

Dispositive Motions:

In trial schedule planning, the parties are advised that the Court expects the schedule to include 90 days from the date of the filing of the motion before the pretrial conference. If the schedule is compressed as a result of amendment by the parties, the Court may be disinclined to consider the motion.

When a case dispositive motion is filed, it should be noticed to "the convenience of the Court." An answering brief thereto is due 30 days after the motion is filed. If a party wishes to file a reply brief, the party should seek leave of Court to do so. The parties may request oral argument on a case dispositive motion, but argument will not be scheduled unless the Court feels it would be helpful.

The original motion and response should be e-filed with 2 courtesy copies delivered to chambers. If no response is timely filed, the Court may deem the motion unopposed and grant the motion. Contrary to the NCC Plan at IV.A.2.c., an appendix may exceed 25 pages as necessary.

Pretrail Stipulations:

Counsel is expected to utilize Superior Court Civil Form 46 for Pretrial Stipulations. All legal or evidentiary issues worthy of pretrial identification and focus should be identified in the stipulation with brief citation(s) of legal authorities relied upon. Legal issues raised in the pretrial stipulation will be resolved at the pretrial conference if possible.

Pretrial Conferences:

As indicated in the Court's form Trial Scheduling Order, the Court will hold a pretrial conference approximately 30 days before the scheduled trial date. Trial counsel, including pro hac vice counsel, must attend the Pretrial Conference. For good cause, such as distance and/or the nature of the case, pro hac vice counsel may be permitted to participate by phone.

Pretrial Conferences may be reported on the record.

Motions in Limine:

Judge Butler encourages the use of motions in limine in civil litigation and understands that ruling on these motions frequently aids the parties in understanding the potential outcomes and litigation risks. On the other hand, some matters cannot be resolved without a more complete record. Any particularly significant issue, especially those carrying a major impact on the ultimate disposition, should be raised by motion in limine. In order to make best use of the time, the Court encourages the parties to file motions in limine after the close of discovery and before the pretrial conference. If a party will be moving in limine, it is expected that the party will file its motion at least 2 weeks before the scheduled pretrial conference, leaving opposing counsel 1 week within which to respond.

If the issue is susceptible to quick resolution, the Court will rule on motions in limine at the Pretrial Conference. The Court may, however, defer ruling for further argument or briefing between the date of the pretrial and the trial date.

Final Pretrial Conference:

Cases remaining on the trial calendar after the pretrial conference will be called for a final pretrial conference in the final week before trial. The purpose of this conference is to review any remaining issues concerning jury voir dire, pending motions in limine, and jury instructions. In some cases, there may be no such issues remaining and the final conference may be waived by the parties, subject to agreement by the Court.

Basic Precepts:

Judge Butler has a deep appreciation for the (usually uncompensated) time jurors must commit to a trial and expects the parties to present their case expeditiously. Trial days commence at 9 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. with 10 minute breaks at mid morning and mid afternoon and one hour for lunch commencing sometime between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Any party aware that it cannot comply with that schedule should raise the issue sufficiently in advance so the Court and jury can plan accordingly. Running out of witnesses during a trial day due to failure to plan appropriately is a source of great frustration to the Court and counsel who fails to organize his time and resources causes disruption to the Court and the jury. The Court routinely advises the jury where the case stands at every break.

Local counsel will be excused from attending trial, so long as counsel can confirm that trial counsel has been fully briefed on local practice in Superior Court. Judge Butler may require the attendance of local counsel if circumstances develop at trial warrant it.

Any counsel wishing to speak to the Court, the jury, a witness or opposing counsel should do so from a standing position, at the podium.

During openings and summations, counsel are given permission to move about the courtroom freely. During examination of witnesses, counsel are permitted to approach witnesses with exhibits without further permission of the Court. Counsel should approach testifying witnesses only for the purpose of pointing out exhibits and should refrain from questioning witnesses while in close proximity to the witness.

Objections must be contemporaneous. The reasons therefore, to the extent not obvious from the context, must be stated at sidebar outside the hearing of the jury. "Speaking objections" in the presence of the jury that are intended to influence the jury are likely to be met with a sua sponte admonition and curative instruction by the Court.

Civil litigation should be conducted with a minimum of surprise, including trial. It is expected that counsel intending to raise an issue counsel knows will require a court ruling on an evidentiary issue should raise the issue in limine or during a recess and outside the presence of the jury in order to minimize a jury's "downtime" while counsel argue points that could have been resolved during a break. A party raising subtle issues of evidentiary law or civil procedure mid trial with a jury present should not expect the discretion of the Court to be favorably disposed.

Counsel needing a courtroom with specific technology support should contact the Bailiffs' Office (302) 255-0888 several days before the trial.

Counsel intending to use demonstrative evidence during opening statements should confer with opposing counsel several days before the trial and seek to resolve any issues regarding such evidence. If they remain unresolved in the week before trial, they will be decided at the Final Pretrial Conference.

Court submissions that are likely to be revised by the Court, i.e., proposed jury instructions and voir dire questions, should be submitted in Word format to Shelly Beane, Judge Butler's administrative assistant.