Common Pleas Court Judges
Judge J. Philip Calabrese
Bryan W. Evans
Law Clerk to Judge Alice M. Batchelder, U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit (2000-01); as a partner in major international and regional law firms obtained extensive civil litigation and trial experience, including oral arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court and state and federal courts of appeals.
POLICIES RELATING TO COVID-19
** Updated April 30, 2020 **
The Court remains open for business, although working remotely and with reduced staff. The Court encourages all counsel and parties to consider their own welfare, that of their staff, and that of the general public as they litigate.
All scheduling orders will remain in effect unless modified by the Court. If you feel a modification of any part of the case management order is necessary, please confer with counsel for the other parties then file a motion to extend the case schedule or a specific deadline. Preferably, parties can agree on a joint motion to avoid unnecessary litigation. Consistent with the uncodified provisions in Section 22 of House Bill 197 (enacted Mar. 27, 2020) and the Ohio Supreme Court’s Order In re Tolling of Time Requirements Imposed by Rules Promulgated by the Supreme Court and Use of Technology, 2020-Ohio-1166 (Mar. 27, 2020), the Court will grant reasonable extensions of the case management schedule.
The Court is NOT automatically continuing scheduled pretrial conferences.
Before granting a continuance or adjusting the schedule in any criminal case, the Court will conduct an attorney conference by telephone with defense counsel and the prosecutor primarily handling the case. Defendants, victims, and others may participate if they desire, but their presence is not required unless the Court so orders. If counsel is not available at the scheduled time, the Court asks that they confer and provide two or three mutually agreeable times (even if after the journalized date) to the Bailiff.
At attorney conferences, the Court will discuss the following: the status of discovery; what additional discovery is needed in the case; a realistic schedule for completing discovery in light of conditions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic; any pretrial motions or other matters that might require a ruling from the Court; the possibility of a plea; the feasibility of a bench trial; and how to move the case forward most effectively and efficiently under the current circumstances, including any issues counsel believe affect these considerations or think the Court should be aware of.
The Court encourages and expects parties to continue discovery to the extent possible and to confer as necessary and appropriate by telephone. If the parties need the Court’s involvement in any issue, they may file a motion or request a telephone conference with the Court.
Notice of Intent to Plea. If the parties reach a plea agreement, they should advise the Court. If the defendant files a Notice of Intent to Plead Guilty and identifies the charges to which he or she will plead guilty, the Court will order the preparation of a presentence investigation report so that one hearing may be held for a change of plea and sentencing.
Pleas and Sentencings. If a defendant waives his or her physical presence, the Court will take a plea and conduct sentencing using remote technology.
In the interest of ensuring the administration of justice, at the request of the parties, the Court will consider conducting bench trials using remote technology.
If you have a question about a case on the civil docket, please contact the Court’s staff attorney at the number listed above during business hours.
If you have a question about a case on the criminal docket, please contact the Court’s bailiff at the number listed above during business hours.
The Court’s staff may be working remotely but will respond to any messages you leave.
If a written request for oral argument on a motion is filed before a ruling, stating that a lawyer five or fewer years out of law school will conduct the lion’s share of argument, then the Court will hear oral argument, believing that young lawyers need more opportunities for appearance than they usually receive.
Default Motions and Hearings
Default hearings are held in courtroom 21-D. Upon the filing of a motion for default judgment, the court will schedule a default hearing. Once a defendant’s answer date has run, the moving party must move for default within fourteen days. Once the default hearing is scheduled, the movant must bring to the hearing the following: affidavit of damages, a prepared journal entry, and a copy of the letter sent by regular and certified mail seven (7) days prior to the hearing date notifying all parties of the hearing and that failure to appear will result in judgment against them.
Proof of Assignment Required
In a default proceeding involving an assignment, the movant must provide authenticated copies of any and all assignments of the accounts, including the date of assignment and proof of the amount of principal due and 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.
The discovery schedule is set at the Case Management Conference (CMC). Any party who fails to participate in the CMC will be deemed to have accepted the scheduling order established by the Court. The Court allows between ninety (90) to one hundred and twenty (120) days for discovery depending on the complexity of the case. As a general rule, the Judge will conduct the CMC, and the CMC will be conducted in person. All counsel attending the CMC shall have full authority to enter into a binding Case Management Order that addresses the discovery schedule, amount in controversy, deadlines for discovery, expert reports, motions, and other pre-trial matters, and referral to arbitration or mediation. Note that all discovery must be served sufficiently in advance of the discovery deadline to allow the completion of discovery by the deadline.
Parties are expected to make all reasonable efforts to settle discovery disputes among themselves. Before filing any discovery motion (motion to compel, motion to quash, motion for protective order, etc.), parties are required to contact the staff attorney and initiate a telephone conference. Parties will be provided a full opportunity to make a record of any perceived discovery violations.
Continuances and Extensions
Continuances and extensions may be granted for good cause shown. Extensions of court-ordered deadlines may be requested by motion, preferably in the form of a joint or unopposed motion. Before filing a motion seeking an extension, parties are required to consult in good faith with opposing counsel and to state in the motion opposing counsel’s position on the requested extension.
The purpose of the final pre-trial is to discuss settlement. Accordingly, the Court's policies and protocols for settlement conferences apply to both settlement conferences and final pre-trials.
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 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. Parties are expected to negotiate in good faith. Failure to do so may result in sanctions.
“Floaters” are not appropriate representatives for purposes of settlement conferences and final pretrial. 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 attorneys’ fees incurred by the other parties in connection with the conference, as well as other appropriate sanctions against the non-complying party and/or counsel.
The Court permits jurors to take notes and to ask questions of witnesses (subject to Court review and approval).
Any motion directed to the qualifications or reliability (including the methodology or fit) of an expert’s opinions must be in writing and filed no later than fourteen (14) days before the final pre-trial.
Motions in Limine
Motions in Limine must be in writing and filed fourteen (14) days before trial. Every motion in limine must contain a certification that, before filing the motion, the movant conferred (or attempted to confer) in good faith with the opposing party in an effort to reach agreement on the issue without the Court’s intervention. A brief in opposition is due seven (7) days after the motion in limine is filed. Motions and/or briefs that do not comply with this Standing Order or that are untimely may be stricken by the Court.
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 ten (10) pages and must be filed no later than seven (7) days before the trial.
Witness and Exhibit Lists
No later than seven (7) days before the date of the final pre-trial conference, the parties shall exchange, serve, and file witness lists which shall include the names of witnesses and a very brief statement outlining the substance of the expected testimony of each witness. 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
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. 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. 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. 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. Parties should contact the staff attorney to obtain the email address for delivery of an electronic copy of proposed jury instructions.
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 three (3) 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.
- Counsel shall only address questions to the prospective jurors in the jury box. The remaining jurors will be instructed to listen carefully to all the questions to hold any responses until they are called to the jury box.
- Counsel shall not test a theory of their case on prospective jurors, or ask jurors to promise to do anything other than uphold their oaths as jurors.
- Counsel shall not use “exhibits” or demonstratives unless opposing counsel has agreed or the Court gives approval.
- Counsel shall not argue their case, but only give a brief overview of what they believe the evidence will be.
- Objection transcripts shall be delivered to the Court at least three (3) business days before trial.
- Brevity is the order of the day. Do not repeat questions or arguments.
- No speaking objections. If a record is required, ask for permission to approach the bench.
- No editorial comments.
- Counsel shall mark their exhibits and exchange the same with opposing counsel before the start of trial. Counsel who intend to use poster boards should have photos or 8½ by 11 printouts of the poster boards available to include in the record. Court reporters will not retain the poster boards as part of the record.
- Counsel may bring beverages into the courtroom.
- If counsel uses a discovery deposition for impeachment purposes, always give page references to opposing counsel.
- During deliberations, counsel should make sure the bailiff knows where counsel can be reached in case of questions or a verdict. Counsel and parties should be within 5 minutes of the courthouse.
- Counsel are responsible for conferring with the court reporter to be sure the exhibits that are admitted into evidence properly go back to the jury.