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Federal Bar Update: Court launches new website, case management plan

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FedBarMaley-sigSouthern District’s new website – The Southern District’s website is revamped, with a new and improved look and feel. The case opinion search feature remains and allows searching by judge and/or date. It can be a useful tool to get recent standards, for instance, on common issues.

Southern District’s new case management plan – The Southern District has a new version of its Uniform Case Management Plan, effective Dec. 10. It is available on the court’s website under the Local Rules and Orders tab. It has several significant changes, so practitioners should ensure that colleagues, paralegals and secretaries start with the revised form off the court’s website.

One notable provision is the following: “Within 14 days after the non-expert discovery deadline, and consistent with the certification provisions of Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 11(b) the party with the burden of proof shall file a statement of the claims or defenses it intends to prove at trial, stating specifically the legal theories upon which the claims or defenses are based.”

Also, regarding final witness and exhibit lists, the Uniform Plan provides, “All parties shall file and serve their final witness and exhibit lists on or before _____ [no later than 14 months from Anchor Date]. This list should reflect the specific potential witnesses the party may call at trial. It is not sufficient for a party to simply incorporate by reference ‘any witness listed in discovery’ or such general statements. The list of final witnesses shall include a brief synopsis of the expected testimony.”

Northern District’s new chair of Local Rules Committee – After many years of distinguished leadership and service as chair of the Northern District’s Local Rules Committee, Magistrate Judge Roger Cosbey is passing the baton to Magistrate Judge John Martin. The committee has been very active in improving and simplifying the court’s Local Rules during Judge Cosbey’s tenure. Any comments or suggestions on the court’s Local Rules are welcome, and should be sent to clerk Robert Trgovich.

7th Circuit Standards of Professional Conduct – For more than 20 years, the Standards for Professional Conduct Within the 7th Federal Judicial Circuit have been in existence. They provide useful guidance, but their Preamble states, “These standards shall not be used as a basis for litigation or for sanctions or penalties. Nothing in these standards supersedes or detracts from exiting disciplinary codes or alters existing standards of conduct against which lawyer negligence may be determined. These standards should be reviewed and followed by all judges and lawyers participating in any proceeding in this Circuit.”

In the Northern and Southern Districts, to be admitted as a member of the court or pro hac vice, counsel must certify that they have read and will abide by these standards. See N.D. Ind. LR 83-5; S.D. Ind. LR 83-5, 83-6. The Northern District’s Local Rules further provide, “Indiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct and the Seventh Circuit Standards of Professional Conduct (an appendix to these rules) govern the conduct of those practicing in the court.” N.D. Ind. LR 83-5(e).

In litigation, the standards have been cited by or within the 7th Circuit on scores of occasions. For instance, Judge John Tinder wrote for the 7th Circuit in one decision, “Failing to cite adverse controlling authority makes an argument frivolous. Not only that, but it is ‘imprudent and unprofessional.’ Thompson v. Duke, 940 F.2d 192, 198 (7th Cir. 1991). We expect more from attorneys who appear before us. See Standards for Professional Conduct Within the Seventh Federal Judicial Circuit, ‘Lawyer’s Duties to the Court.’” Gross v. Town of Cicero, 619 F.3d 697, 703 (7th Cir. 2010).

Locally, an example comes from Oakley v. Remy Int’l, 2011 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 124477 (S.D. Ind. 2011), in which Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson wrote, “As far as motions to reconsider go, this motion was exceptionally aggressive. Given the effort that the Court devotes to pending cases – and this case has been no exception – Remy’s only barely veiled accusations that the Court either recklessly ignored or willfully refused to apply Circuit precedent is, therefore, unfortunate and disappointing. [See, e.g., dkt. 77 at 2 (‘The district court may not ignore or refuse to follow Seventh Circuit precedent.’]”

She continued, “Both bench and bar have reciprocal obligations to address each other with respect. See Standards for Professional Conduct Within the Seventh Federal Judicial Circuit, Lawyers’ Duties to the Court Standard 1 & Courts’ Duties to Lawyers Standard 1. Here, Remy’s counsel fell short of that obligation. The Court trusts that counsel will, in the future, exercise the civility to the bench that counsel has received and will continue to receive from the bench. One can disagree without being disagreeable.”

With the New Year upon us, reviewing these standards is timely and prudent.

Common Interest Privilege – Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch recently addressed the common interest privilege in Ducker v. Amin, 1:12-CV-01596 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 31, 2013). Her opinion contains a thorough discussion of this topic and concludes, “The common interest privilege protects from disclosure only communications between Ms. Ducker and Mr. Worthy that included one or both of their legal counsel, or included only their legal counsel, and which concerned their common interest. It does not protect from disclosure communications between Ms. Ducker and Mr. Worthy without the participation of counsel.”

Save the date – The 2014 annual federal civil practice seminar will return Dec. 19 this year; mark your calendars.•

__________

John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters, and appeals. He chairs the Local Rules Advisory Committee for the S.D. of Indiana and is a member of the Local Rules Advisory Committee for the N.D. of Indiana. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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