Updated: Novemeber 1, 2017
For Attorneys & Legal Staff Only:
Chambers Fax: (302) 255-2274 *
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.
Only counsel, not legal staff, may write directly to Judge Cooch. All correspondence must be signed by an attorney in the law firm of the attorney of record, and filed on the case docket.
Any letter to the Court requesting Court action of some kind (in instances where a motion is otherwise not appropriate) must state the position of all parties or otherwise represent that opposing counsel or self-represented party could not be reached. Examples include, but are not limited to, requests to reschedule a trial date, requests to extend briefing page limitations and requests to amend the Trial Scheduling Order. Any proposed stipulated amendment to a Trial Scheduling Order shall include all dates for ease of reference
Email should not be used with Judge Cooch except when (a) Judge Cooch has approved same or (b) exigent circumstances exist. However, this does not preclude administrative-type emails, particularly to staff.
Administrative emails are not docketed. Administrative emails should only be sent to Judge Cooch if not appropriate to send to staff.
Substantive emails are docketed and must always include the civil action number.
Comments or questions from lawyers, paralegals and other legal staff about Judge Cooch's preferences are welcome.
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(s) 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 Conferences:
After responsive pleading(s) are filed and/or default judgment(s) entered, Judge Cooch's Administrative Specialist will establish a scheduling conference. The Scheduling Conference Order (SCO) will be sent to counsel and/or self-represented parties setting a time for the conference within about 6 to 8 weeks after answers are filed and/or default judgments are entered. Scheduling Conferences are usually held in chambers unless by teleconference, but are held in a courtroom when a party is self-represented.
Another attorney in the law firm of counsel for a party (other than the attorney(s) who are on the signature block for the complaint or the responsive pleading) may attend the scheduling conference provided (1) that attorney has a basic understanding of the case, (2) the case is not particularly complex, and (3) the attorney knows the trial attorney's trial availability. If counsel other than a signatory of the complaint or the responsive pleading plans to attend, counsel should notify chambers at least the day before the Scheduling Conference by phone to Judge Cooch's Administrative Specialist. If appropriate, counsel should confer about potential mediators before the Scheduling Conference. A directory of court-trained mediators is available on the Court's Web site. Counsel attending the scheduling conference should have authority to agree to a specific mediator, if at all possible.
After receiving a scheduling conference date and time, if all counsel believe that the case is likely to settle soon, counsel for plaintiff(s), speaking for all parties, may write the Court requesting the scheduling conference's postponement. Unless ordered otherwise, the conference will be indefinitely postponed. Counsel for plaintiff(s) must then submit a status report within sixty days of the date of the postponed conference.
Note: Judge Cooch understands that the establishment of a trial date with related deadline dates can be helpful to resolve cases, even those that are likely to settle promptly. Counsel should proceed with the initial scheduling conference, even if prompt settlement of the case is likely, if any attorney in the case believes that a trial date with related deadlines will help resolve the case.
If any attorney believes that a Scheduling Order should have been issued, but one has not been issued, counsel should contact the Judicial Case Manager to inquire about the delay.
Reminder: a scheduling conference is scheduled only after all defendants or third-party defendants have (1) filed responsive pleadings or (2) had default judgments entered against them.
If all counsel agree that a case is otherwise routine and that the Scheduling Conference could be handled by teleconference rather than in chambers, counsel for plaintiff(s) should notify chambers. Counsel are advised that such teleconferences may ultimately be handled by the Administrative Specialist. Unless otherwise ordered, counsel for plaintiff(s) shall initiate the teleconference at the designated time. Whether it is accomplished in person or by phone, Judge Cooch's goal is to establish a trial scheduling order that (1) sets the earliest feasible trial date and (2) is best suited to the dynamics of the particular case. A teleconference or in-person conference are possible ways of achieving this goal and the objectives of the March 28, 2000 Superior Court Civil Administrative Order.
If Judge Cooch is unexpectedly unavailable for the scheduling conference, the Administrative Specialist may conduct that conference and will notify counsel beforehand. However, if any attorney thinks the scheduling conference requires Judge Cooch's handling, the conference will be rescheduled.
Scheduling conferences involving Kent or Sussex County counsel will always be held by teleconference unless the Kent or Sussex County attorney(s) prefer to be present.
At least one attorney per party admitted pro hac vice must participate in the scheduling conference, either by phone or in person, in addition to local counsel.
If mediation resolves the case, counsel for plaintiff(s) should promptly so notify the Civil Case Manager and the Administrative Specialist by email or letter.
Trial Scheduling Orders:
Judge Cooch uses his standard Trial Scheduling Order (TSO) for most civil cases. The TSO sets forth firm deadlines. Failure to meet deadlines, without good cause, may result in the Court's refusal to allow extensions. TSO amendments must be made by (1) appropriate motion or (2) joint stipulation, and ordered by the Court. If a party seeks to extend discovery or expert deadlines, without affecting remaining scheduled dates, the motion or stipulation should so state.
If all counsel think a case has a good chance of settling, and with agreement of all counsel, the Court may 'doublebook' counsel for trial as long as all counsel understands the potential necessity to reschedule the latter case. Note: Judge Cooch believes he has never had to reschedule a 'doublebooked' case for this reason.
Appeals From Administrative Agencies, Boards, Commissions and Courts:
If there is an unusual delay in the preparation of the record, counsel for appellant(s) should write to the Court to advise of the problem. Judge Cooch may take appropriate action to accelerate this process pursuant to Superior Court Appellate Administrative Order, March 21, 1995.
Oral argument is usually held in administrative appeals only if requested. The Court may convene a teleconference with counsel after the case's assignment to discuss its possible resolution. Sample Letter to Counsel in Administrative Appeals.
All motions shall be formatted in the manner set forth in Superior Court Civil Rule 78(b). All briefs shall be formatted in the manner set forth in Superior Court Civil Rules 107(b), (d), (e), and (h). 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 will be appropriate.
When responding to a motion, avoid using terms and phrases typically used in answers to complaints. If a motion is filed in the form of numbered paragraphs, the response should not be in the style of an answer to a complaint ( i.e., Admitted in part; denied in part. By way of further answer [etc.] ), but rather each numbered paragraph in the response should set forth the arguments in a manner that does not require simultaneous side-by-side review by the judge of the motion's numbered paragraphs to understand the response's numbered paragraphs.
Routine Motions are defined in Paragraph IV.B.3.a. of the NCC Plan. Judge Cooch hears routine motions every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. He may decide to hear a routine motion at a different time, and will so advise counsel. Any attorney should write to Judge Cooch if that attorney believes the complexity or length of the argument suggests that another date and trial would be more feasible.
Routine Motions must be filed 10 days prior (excluding weekends and holidays) to the noticed date. Responses are due the Wednesday prior to presentation. A courtesy copy of both the motion and response must be filed in chambers. If no response is timely filed, the Court may deem the motion unopposed and grant the motion in advance.
A motion to continue a trial date shall be scheduled as a routine motion. However, if the request is unopposed, the application may be made by letter indicating there is no opposition.
If counsel does not oppose a routine motion, non-opposing counsel should so notify the Court by letter. If possible, an unopposed motion should represent that non-opposition in the motion itself (if such non-opposition is known to the movant) in which event no further notification is necessary.
If an Order is entered before the hearing, the Court will promptly notify the attorney for the movant.
Judge Cooch often refers substantive non-routine discovery motions to a commissioner. Depending on that commissioner's availability, the discovery motion may be heard at 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday; otherwise, the commissioner will schedule a hearing date. Discovery motions are usually referred to a commissioner immediately before the scheduled routine motion hearing date, and counsel are so advised.
Despite the wording of present Civil Rule 78(c), Judge Cooch will hold oral argument on all motions unless he specifically decides otherwise. Counsel should obtain possible dates and times for oral argument through the Administrative Specialist. If a party then does not file a dispositive motion within 4 days after obtaining the possible times for oral argument, the scheduled time may be canceled. Contrary to the NCC Plan and Superior Court Civil Rule 107(b), after reviewing an issue-dispositive motion, Judge Cooch will usually order briefing and order a reply brief.
A Motion to Dismiss all or part of complaint or third-party complaint, shall not be set forth in the same pleading as the Answer, but shall be a stand-alone pleading.
The original motion, response, and reply should be e-filed with 2 courtesy copies promptly delivered to chambers. The motion response and reply shall not exceed 6 pages (unless permission has previously been granted to exceed the page limit) and shall include a notice page indicating the time for argument.
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. Oral argument on issue-dispositive motions is often held in chambers.
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.
Ordinarily, proposed jury instructions must be filed on the day of trial. In complex cases, the Court may require that instructions be filed with the Pretrial Stipulation and at least discussed at the Pretrial Conference. This can help to focus the parties and the Court on the way legal issues will be formulated at trial.
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. Local counsel shall make arrangements for the teleconference.
Pretrial Conferences are reported and may be transcribed upon direction of the Court and/or counsel.
Motions In Limine:
Any particularly significant issue, including Daubert issues, should be raised by motion in limine. Motions in limine are usually filed and responded to before the Pretrial Conference.
There is no bright line test for whether a legal or evidentiary issue should be (1) raised by a motion in limine, (2) simply identified in a Pretrial Stipulation, or (3) not mentioned at all (if truly minor). If the issue is particularly significant and should be resolved at the pretrial conference, a motion in limine should be filed.
The Court will usually rule on all motions in limine at the Pretrial Conference, unless resolution at trial, or at some later time, is more appropriate. Daubert-type motions in limine will presumptively be decided on a paper record.
Counsel should familiarize themselves with and abide by the courtroom professionalism standards adopted by the Court in 2004. View Expectations of the Superior Court for Attorneys' Professionalism in a Courtroom Setting (April 18, 2004).
Local counsel is expected to attend trial, but may be excused for good cause. However, if circumstances develop at trial, Judge Cooch may require local counsel to attend, and/or actively participate, in the remainder of the trial.
As trial issues arise, counsel should confer with opposing counsel before bringing the issue to the Court's attention to avoid unnecessary surprise to any other party and to seek resolution of the issue without need of court involvement.
Trial days customarily begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:45 p.m., with an hour for lunch (in addition to other shorter recesses). Judge Cooch will usually meet with counsel in chambers at 9:30 a.m. on the first day of 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.
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.
- Case Information Statement
- Civil Form 46 for Pretrial Stipulations
- Sample Letter to Counsel in Administrative Appeals
- Scheduling Conference Order
- Trial Scheduling Order
- Administrative Directives
- Administrative Orders
- Appellate Administrative Order: Standard for Timely Disposition (March 21, 1995)
- Case Management Plan, NCC
- Civil Administrative Order: Policy, Time Standards and Procedures (March 28, 2000)
- Mediators Directory, NCC
- Orders & Opinions
- Rules of Civil Procedure
- Uniform Citation (DE)