Judge Joan C. Synenberg
(216) 348-4036
On Common Pleas Bench Since:
January 2007
. .
(216) 443-8505
Jennifer W. Schwartz (216) 443-8727
Courtroom Assistant:
Joanne Gibbons (216) 348-4015
Staff Attorney:
Lawrence R. Acton (216) 443-8606
Admitted to Bar:
August 18, 1957
Little Italy, Cleveland
High School:
Mayfield High School
Cleveland State University
Law School:
Cleveland Marshall College of Law
Legal Experience:
Not Available At This Time.


COURTESY COPIES REQUIRED: Counsel and unrepresented parties shall deliver to the court courtesy copies of all motions, briefs, and trial-related documents upon filing. Delivery may be made either to the staff attorney to the bailiff in courtroom 18-A.

EMAIL ADDRESSES REQUIRED: Counsel and unrepresented parties shall provide email addresses on all documents filed with the court.

Attorneys should be prepared to discuss settlement at the earliest opportunity. Mediation and arbitration will be used in cases where appropriate. Court endeavors to resolve cases within one year of filing, absent extraordinary circumstances.

Pro se litigants are, by law, presumed to know the law and correct procedure (and must accept the results of their errors). The court sits as an impartial arbiter, and all litigants will be treated equally.

The court will not consider communications other than those that have been properly served upon all parties and filed with the clerk.

PRETRIAL STATEMENTS: Pretrial statements are required to be delivered to the court at least seven (7) days prior to any pretrial, final pretrial, or settlement conference. At a minimum, counsel shall follow the guidelines provided in Loc.R. 21, Part III(E).

Parties are to be prepared to discuss settlement at pretrials. The court's policies and protocols pertaining to "Settlement Conferences" (see below) apply to all pretrials and final pretrials.

FINAL PRETRIALS: Parties are required to comply with these litigation preferencees and Loc.R. 21, Parts II and III.

Motion Practice: 
ORAL ARGUMENT: Oral arguments are conducted only as required by the Civil Rules. Motions in Limine are to be submitted in writing as soon as practicable.

COURTESY COPIES: Counsel is directed to provide the staff attorney with copies of motions for summary judgment and complex or extraordinary procedural motions (e.g., motions for class action certification, restraining and protection orders, injunctive relief, etc.), trial briefs, proposed jury instructions, motions in limine, and dismissal entries when filed.

Courtesy copies are to be delivered to the court upon filing. Delivery may be made by leaving a copy with the bailiff in courtroom 18-A or with the staff attorney on the 11th floor.

DEFAULT HEARING - GENERALLY: Default hearings are held in courtroom 18-A. Parties are required to be present.

DEFAULT HEARING - DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Plaintiffs’ attorney must bring to the hearing the following items:

(i) Judgment entry;

(ii) Any contract, assignment, or written instrument upon which plaintiff seeks judgment -- even if already attached to the complaint or motion;

(iii) Affidavit signed by the plaintiffs’ attorney averring compliance with all service requirements in accordance with applicable statutes and rules; and

(iv) Affidavit signed by the plaintiff(s) or plaintiffs’ representative proving damages.

DEFAULT: PROOF OF ASSIGNMENT REQUIRED IN ACCOUNT CASES: Plaintiff(s) must provide authenticated copies of any and all assignments of the account(s), including the date of assignment, plus proof of the amount of principal due & owing at the time the debt was charged off by the original creditor. Blanket assignments that contain no reference to the debtor’s name and/or account(s) will not be considered. Default judgment will not be granted without these items of proof.

DEFAULT: NOTIFICATION OF DEFENDANT(S): Plaintiffs are required to notify in writing all parties against whom default judgment is sought of the time and date of the default hearing by regular and certified mail, return receipt requested, at least ten (10) days in advance of the hearing date. NOTE: If plaintiffs have not notified defaulting defendants in accordance with this requirement, then default judgment will not be granted. Proof of timely mailing of such notice may be required at the default hearing. Certified mail receipt or proof of certified mail service attempts, available from the USPS website, is required also.

Discovery schedule is set at the Case Management Conference (CMC).

DISCOVERY DISPUTES: Parties are expected to make all reasonable efforts to settle discovery disputes among themselves. Parties are required to initiate a telephone conference with the court before filing any motion to compel discovery. Motions to compel that have been filed without leave of court will be summarily denied. Court requires strict compliance with Civ.R. 37(E). Scheduling conflicts shall be brought to the attention of the court's staff attorney immediately upon discovery of same.

EXTENSION OF DISCOVERY DEADLINE: Parties may, by mutual agreement, extend the deadline for completing discovery; provided, any such extension shall not, under any circumstances, alter any other court-scheduled events, deadlines, or mediation.

Settlement Conference: 
SETTLEMENT CONFERENCES & FINAL PRETRIALS: The court's policies and protocols contained herein apply to both settlement conferences and final pretrials.

COMPLIANCE WITH LOCAL RULES: Counsel and unrepresented parties are required to comply with Loc.R. 21, Parts II and III(E), which includes submitting a settlement/mediation or pretrial statement at least one week prior to the scheduled settlement conference.

FULL, FINAL, AND IMMEDIATE AUTHORITY: All parties and chosen representatives must be present with full, final, and immediate settlement authority. If the real party in interest is an insurance company, corporation, common carrier, or other artificial entity, then the chosen representative must be the person with full, final, and immediate authority to negotiate and enter into a binding settlement agreement as to all claims. A governmental entity shall send a representative authorized to act on its behalf.

NOTICE: "Floaters" are not appropriate representatives for purposes of settlement conferences and final pretrials. Failure to bring a representative with full, final, and immediate settlement authority shall constitute a violation of this standing order and will result in sanctions including, but not limited to, an award of costs and attorney fees incurred by the other parties in connection with the conference, as well as other appropriate sanctions against the noncomplying party and/or counsel. In addition, the court will schedule another pretrial/hearing which said representative shall be required to attend personally and show cause why s/he should not be held in contempt of court.

Parties are expected to negotiate in good faith; failure to do so may result in sanctions.

Calendaring and Continuances: 
CMC is scheduled after at least one defendant has filed an answer.

NOTIFICATION OF CMC: Prior to the CMC, counsel for plaintiff(s) is required to inform all opposing counsel and unrepresented parties, in writing, of the date and time of the CMC. Parties are to have their calendars available and should prepared to discuss service issues, discovery progress, scheduling matters, and alternative dispute resolution options.

CMCs BY PHONE: The court schedules CMCs by phone as a courtesy. Counsel are expected to follow the instructions included in the court's CMC notices, which require, among other things:

(i) Counsel for plaintiff(s) to inform all opposing counsel and unrepresented parties, in writing, of this date and time;

(ii) Counsel to call the court promptly at the appointed time, with all parties already on the line;

(iii) Counsel NOT to leave a voicemail message, but to send an email message to lacton@cuyahogacounty.us with a callback phone number;

(iv) Counsel and unrepresented parties to remain available for 1/2 hour after the appointed time to receive the court's call.


Any party who fails to participate in the CMC will be deemed to have accepted the scheduling order established by the court.

Continuances may be granted for good cause shown.

TRIAL BRIEF: All parties are required to serve and file a trial brief which shall contain a succinct statement of their claims (as presented in the pleadings); a brief statement of the essential and material facts; the legal issues involved; the type and amount of damages they are seeking; and an estimate of how long it will take to put on their case in chief. Trial briefs shall not exceed the length necessary.

WITNESS & EXHIBIT LISTS: On or before the date of the final pretrial, the parties shall exchange, serve and file witness lists which shall include the witnesses' names and a brief statement outlining the substance of each witness' expected testimony. The parties shall exchange/serve and file a list of trial exhibits. Trial exhibits shall be pre-marked with exhibit stickers and exchanged. Plaintiffs shall mark their exhibits using numbers; defendants shall mark their exhibits using letters. The parties are required to provide the court with a file-stamped copy of all of the above items.

STIPULATED STATEMENT OF THE CASE: Parties shall prepare a stipulated statement of the case for the court to read to the jury during its preliminary charge.

JURY INSTRUCTIONS, INTERROGATORIES, AND VERDICT FORMS - GENERAL REQUIREMENTS: Counsel shall provide jury instructions which conform to OJI or cite to published Ohio cases. Counsel shall provide jury instructions that are relevant to the specific issues to be presented at trial; counsel need not provide general jury instructions (e.g., standards of proof, evidence & credibility, etc.). All instructions should be short, concise, understandable, and neutral statements of law. The court will not consider proposed jury instructions that are deemed argumentative or which otherwise do not conform to the above requirements.

EXCHANGE OF JURY INSTRUCTIONS, INTERROGATORIES, AND VERDICT FORMS BEFORE TRIAL: The parties must serve their proposed jury instructions, interrogatories, and verdict forms on each other at least fourteen (14) days before trial. The parties should then confer in order to agree on a single set of instructions to the extent possible. The joint proposed instructions (along with the proposed instructions upon which the parties have been unable to agree), interrogatories, and verdict forms must be filed with the court at least five (5) business days before trial.

OBJECTIONS TO PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTIONS: Each party should file its objections, if any, to jury instructions, interrogatories, and verdict forms proposed by any other party no later than two (2) business days before trial. Any such objections must recite the proposed instruction in its entirety and specifically highlight the objectionable language contained therein. The objection should contain both a concise argument why the proposed language is improper and citation to relevant legal authority. Where applicable, the objecting party must submit an alternative instruction covering the pertinent subject matter or principle of law. Any party may, if it chooses, submit a brief written reply in support of its proposed instructions on the day of trial.

SUBMISSION OF PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTIONS, INTERROGATORIES, AND VERDICT FORMS TO COURT: In addition to hard copies, proposed jury instructions, including the stipulated statement of the case, jury interrogatories, and verdict forms are to be provided to the court in MS Word or WordPerfect format either on a CD-ROM or via email attachment addressed to the court's staff attorney at lacton@cuyahogacounty.us