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Judicial Preferences

Judge Francis J. Jones, Jr.
Civil Case Management Preferences

Updated: July 14, 2020

For Attorneys & Legal Staff Only:

Jackie Barry, Administrative Specialist
Phone: (302) 255-0664

Nancy Gonzalez, Judicial Civil Case Manager
Prothonotary's Office
Phone: (302) 255-0756

Elliott Covert, Law Clerk
Phone: (302) 255-0644

Fax Numbers:

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.

General Communication Preferences

Only Delaware counsel, not legal staff or counsel admitted Pro Hac Vice, may write directly to Judge Jones. All correspondence must be signed by a Delaware attorney in the law firm of the attorney of record and copied to opposing counsel.

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.

A teleconference with the Court may be requested by calling Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist. Counsel requesting the teleconference will arrange to initiate the call otherwise plaintiff's counsel will be responsible.

Email should not be used with Judge Jones except when (a) Judge Jones 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 Jones if not appropriate to send to staff.

The use of email is not permitted when the case includes a self-represented party.

Substantive emails are docketed and must always include the civil action number.

Comments or questions from lawyers, paralegals and other legal staff about Judge Jones' preferences are welcome.

A teleconference with the Court may be requested by calling Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist. Counsel requesting the teleconference ordinarily will arrange to initiate the call. Judge Jones will make every effort to be available by teleconference to resolve disputes that arise during depositions, or to address other matters requiring expedited consideration.

Counsel always should 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 a later-filed, related civil case was assigned to a different judge, please promptly notify the Judicial Case Manager for the judge assigned to the later-filed case.

After all responsive pleading(s) are filed, or default judgments entered where appropriate, counsel will be contacted by the Judge's Administrative Specialist via email to select a trial date.In providing counsel's availability for trial Judges Jones expect counsel to double book trials. The Court then will issue a Trial Scheduling Order via File & Serve.

If counsel believes a teleconference or office conference with Judge Jones will be helpful in establishing a schedule, they may request a conference by contacting Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist. If a case requires expedited treatment, counsel should file an appropriate motion and notify the Court as soon as possible.

If any counsel believes a scheduling order should have been issued, and none has been issued, counsel should contact Judge Jones' Civil Case Manager to inquire about the delay. Reminder: a scheduling order is issued only after all defendants or third-party defendants have (1) filed responsive pleadings, or (2) had default judgments entered against them. Contact should be made with the Civil Case Manager after 45 days have passed from the last event that should have triggered the order.

If any of the parties are self-represented, the Court will conduct a scheduling conference to be held in the courtroom on the record.

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 Jones' 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.

Judge Jones 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 setting a trial date even if prompt settlement of the case is likely, if any attorney in this case believes that a trial date with related deadlines will help resolve the case.

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 conference, either by phone or in person.

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.

Judge Jones uses his standard Trial Scheduling Order 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 there is an unusual delay in the preparation of the record, counsel for appellant(s) should write to the Court to advise of the delay. Judge Jones 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.

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).

Case citations shall use Westlaw format for unreported decisions where possible. The Superior Court presently does not have ready capability to utilize Lexis.

Judge Jones neither needs nor requires a compendium of unreported authorities, so long as such cases or other authority are available on Westlaw.

Routine Motions are defined in Paragraph IV.B.3.a. of the NCC Plan and Superior Court Civil Rule 107(b). Judge Jones hears routine motions every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. The routine motions calendar is designed to resolve each motion in no more than 15 minutes. Counsel may contact Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist if the complexity of the motion requires a longer hearing. Routine Motions must be filed 10 days (excluding weekends and holidays) prior to the noticed date. Responses are due the Friday before the noticed hearing. 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 without a hearing. A motion to continue a trial date shall be scheduled as a routine motion.

Before filing a dispositive motion or a Daubert motion, Counsel must obtain possible dates and times for oral argument through Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist. If a party then does not file the motion within 4 days after obtaining the date and time for oral argument, the scheduled time may be canceled.

The motion, response, and reply must be e-filed. Two courtesy copies of each must be delivered promptly to chambers. Responses are due 21 business days after the motion is filed. A reply brief may be filed within 5 days after the response. The motion, response and reply shall not exceed 10 pages, and shall have a notice page indicating the date and time of the motion hearing.

Counsel who seeks to exceed the page limit should file a letter, at least two business days before the deadline for the filing, requesting permission to exceed the page limit, specifying the number of additional pages sought, and indicating opposing counsel's position on the request. Judge Jones typically rules on such requests within a day.

Oral Arguments by Newer Attorneys:
Recognizing the importance of the development of future generations of practitioners through courtroom opportunities, Judge Jones encourages the participation of newer attorneys (those attorneys relatively recently admitted to the Bar and who have less courtroom experience), particularly as to oral argument on motions where the newer attorney drafted or contributed significantly to the motion. To that end, Judge Jones adopts the following procedures regarding oral argument by newer attorneys:

  1. A party requesting oral argument may alert Judge Jones that, if argument is granted, it intends to have a newer attorney argue the motion (or a portion of the motion).
  2. If such notice is provided, the Court will:

    (A) grant the request for oral argument on the motion, if it is at all practicable to do so.

    (B) strongly consider allocating time for oral argument beyond what the Court may otherwise have allocated, were a newer attorney not arguing the motion.

    (C) permit other more experienced counsel of record the ability to provide some assistance during oral argument to the newer attorney who is arguing the motion.

    Judge Jones recognizes that there may be many different circumstances in which it is not appropriate for a newer attorney to argue a motion; thus, no inference will be drawn from a party's decision not to have a newer attorney argue any particular motion before the Court.
    Additionally, the Court will draw no inference about the importance of a particular motion, or the merits of the party's argument regarding the motion, from the party's decision to have (or not to have) a newer attorney argue the motion.Standing Order Regarding Courtroom Opportunities For Newer Attorneys

A proposed order must be uploaded separately from any other documents, and filed in editable Word format. The proposed order must include a line for Judge Jones' signature. The document title must state with particularity what motion the proposed order addresses (for example, "Proposed Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment"). The filing also must be linked to the documents to which the proposed order refers or applies.

All Delaware counsel and/or self-represented litigants must sign a stipulation before it will be considered by the Court.

If the Stipulation is signed by all parties, and does not need the judge's signature to be effective, the document type should be 'Stipulation' - this document type does not put the document into judicial review. All stipulations to alter scheduling orders, to vacate a trial date, or any other matter likely to affect the Court or its schedule require the judge's signature. When in doubt, counsel should file a stipulation as one requiring the judge's signature.

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 seven (7) days prior to the start 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.

Counsel should come to the conference prepared to discuss the pretrial stipulation, voir dire instructions, and verdict form.

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 are reported.

Judge Jones 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. Absent a different schedule outlined in the case scheduling order, it is expected that the party will file its motion at least 21 days before the scheduled pretrial conference, leaving opposing counsel 14 days within which to respond. The motion and response shall not exceed 10 pages absent permission from the Court.

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.

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.

If a pending case is resolved, Plaintiff's counsel should notify Chambers immediately via email to Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist, Case Manager and Law Clerk. As a general rule, proper documentation should be submitted to the Court within forty-five (45) days of settlement, or Plaintiff's counsel should file a status report if documentation has not been finalized. If, however, a case resolves less than thirty (30) days before the scheduled trial, then the proper documentation must be submitted no later than the deadline for the pre-trial stipulation.

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 Jones may require the attendance of local counsel if circumstances develop at trial warrant it.

As trial issues arise, counsel should confer with opposing counsel before bringing an 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 begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:30 p.m., with an hour for lunch (in addition to periodic shorter recesses), except for the first day of trial, which begins at 9:00 a.m.

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 desiring a courtroom with specific technology support should contact the Bailiff's Office at (302) 255-0888 several days before the trial or hearing.

Counsel intending to present any evidence via electronic media (e.g., audio, video, DVD, etc.) should:

  1. confer with opposing counsel to ensure all necessary redactions or revisions are completed before the start of trial;
  2. ensure the media source is compatible with the Court's courtroom technology;
  3. ensure that counsel or someone employed by counsel is available and competent to present the evidence at trial; and
  4. ensure one copy of the evidence presented (and a transcript thereof, if applicable) is prepared and ready to be marked and submitted as a Court exhibit at the time the evidence is presented. The Court prefers 2 hard copies of exhibits and 2 digital copies. (In cases involving a high volume of exhibits, however, hard copies may not be feasible.)

The Court encourages the use of joint exhibits, whenever possible. Exhibits should be pre-marked whenever possible.

Counsel intending to use demonstrative exhibits during opening statements should confer with opposing counsel several days before the trial and seek to resolve any issues.s

Counsel requiring use of an interpreter shall contact the Court Interpreter Coordinator at (302) 255-0166.Counsel, not the Court, is responsible for coordinating the appearance of a court-certified interpreter for all court appearances.

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 Jackie Barry, Judge Jones' Administrative Specialist.

Court is in session from the time the Judge enters until the Judge leaves the courtroom. Counsel must stand when addressing the Court. Counsel must address the bench, not each other. All coats and materials not immediately necessary for trial must be neatly stowed. After each proceeding or trial day, counsel should ensure that the area is neatly arranged and all trash has been disposed.

The Court expects all counsel to act in a manner consistent with the highest principles of ethics and professionalism.