Judges - Chief District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater

 

Case Management Procedures | Motion Practice | Discovery | Trial Procedures | Misc Procedures | Law Clerk

Requirements for Chief District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater
(Updated January 1, 2012)

 

Chief Judge Fitzwater generally follows the local rules. If the information set out below does not address your particular question, you should determine whether a local rule does. Chief Judge Fitzwater also advises the parties by order of specific requirements that apply to each case. The following information is intended to acquaint counsel and litigants with the judge’s typical procedures and requirements, not to take the place of orders entered in specific cases.

I. Case Management Procedures (For Civil Cases, Unless Otherwise Noted)

  1. Preliminary Pretrial Conference ("Rule 16 Conference")

    Unless a Rule 16(a) scheduling conference is set by the court or requested by a party, the judge will enter a scheduling order after reviewing the proposal required by his scheduling proposal order.

  2. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f) Conference

    The parties must comply with Rule 26(f). The court requires that lead counsel for each party (or a designee attorney with appropriate authority) must meet in person at a mutually agreeable location. The requirement of an in-person meeting does not apply if one or more parties are proceeding pro se.

    Local civil rule 16.1 exempts certain categories of cases from the requirements of Rule 16(b) and, in turn, Rule 26(f). The judge does not follow local civil rule 16.1(f), and therefore requires that parties to cases involving pro se plaintiffs comply with the scheduling and planning requirements of Rule 16(b).

    If, at the time the judge enters his scheduling proposal order, the parties have already conducted a Rule26(f) scheduling conference that fully complies with the one required by the order, they need not convene an additional conference. If the parties have already submitted a Rule 26(f) written report that outlines their proposed discovery plan, they must also submit the joint proposal required by the scheduling proposal order, because it contains matters not required by Rule 26(f). The parties may, however, adopt portions of their written report by reference if they attach a photocopy of the report to the proposal required by the order.

  3. Status Report/Scheduling Order

    A scheduling proposal order is issued as soon as possible after all or most defendants have filed responsive pleadings or after a case is removed.

    In response to the scheduling proposal order, the parties must file a proposal that contains the following matters:

    1. The proposal must—under a separate heading—state whether all the parties consent to referring this case to a magistrate judge for jury or nonjury trial, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). If all parties do not consent, the proposal need not identify which parties consent and which do not.


    2. The proposal must contain proposed deadlines that limit the time to (a) join other parties and to amend the pleadings; (b) file motions, including summary judgment and other dispositive motions; (c) complete discovery; and (d) designate expert witnesses and make the expert disclosures required by Rule 26(a)(2).


    3. At the parties' option, the proposal may also contain the parties’ views and proposals concerning (a) modifications of the times for disclosures under Rule 26(a) and Rule 26(e)(1) and of the extent of discovery to be permitted; (b) provisions for disclosure or discovery of electronically stored information; (c) any agreements the parties reach for asserting claims of privilege or of protection as trial-preparation material after production; (d) the date or dates for conferences before trial, a final pretrial conference, and trial; (e) any matter not included in (a) through (d) that is addressed in Rule 26(f)(1)-(6); and (f) any other matters appropriate to the circumstances of the case.

If counsel cannot agree on a particular proposal, they must set forth each party's respective recommendation and must state why agreement could not be reached. The proposal should not be prepared in the form of a proposed order. The judge enters his own order.

Counsel must include in the proposal—under a separate heading—a status report that sets out the progress made toward settlement or other resolution and the present status of settlement negotiations. (In a nonjury case, the parties must not disclose settlement figures.) It is unacceptable to include a rote recitation that settlement was discussed but was unsuccessful.

  1. Referrals to Magistrate Judges

    See I(C)(1) above.

  2. Settlement Discussion

    See I(C) above.

  3. Pretrial Order

    Local civil rule 16.4 provides that, unless otherwise directed by the presiding judge, a pretrial order must be submitted at least 10 days before the scheduled date for trial. The judge modifies this requirement in his trial docket setting order to require that the proposed order be submitted no later than 14 days before the date of the trial setting.

    Parties who wish to submit the proposed pretrial order on paper must submit the original and judge's copy of the document (styled as the “Pretrial Order”) directly to the judge’s chambers. Parties who wish to submit the proposed pretrial order electronically must submit it to Fitzwater Orders in WordPerfect or Word format. The judge does not typically enter the pretrial order until the pretrial conference or the commencement of trial. The judge will direct the clerk to file it after he signs it. The parties must jointly submit one proposed pretrial order, signed by at least one counsel of record for each party, or personally by any party proceeding pro se. If a party objects to a part of the proposed pretrial order that an opposing party has included, the objecting party may note its objection in the proposed pretrial order, but must otherwise participate in the submission of a single, joint proposed pretrial order.

  4. Final Pretrial Conference

    A pretrial conference will usually be conducted, telephonically or in person, no later than the week that precedes the date that trial is expected to begin. All civil cases are tried under the restrictions of time limits. If the judge anticipates imposing time limits that significantly reduce the parties' estimated trial length, he will conduct a pretrial conference sufficiently in advance of trial so that counsel will have reasonable notice of such limits.

  5. Judge's Copy of Documents Filed on Paper and By Electronic Means (Civil and Criminal Cases)

    Pursuant to local civil rule 5.1(b) and local criminal rule 49.2(b), when a pleading, motion, or other paper is submitted on paper, the party must file an original and one judge's copy with the clerk. When a pleading, motion, or other paper is filed by electronic means, the party must submit the judge's copy—i.e., a paper copy of the electronic filing—using the procedures for Chief Judge Fitzwater specified on the court's website. This information can currently be obtained by visiting http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/filing/ecf.html and selecting the link for "Judges Copy Requirements." (The term "judge's copy" is defined in local civil rule 1.1(g) and local criminal rule 1.1(g) ("The term judge's copy' means a paper copy of an original pleading, motion, or other paper that is submitted for use by the presiding judge.").)

 

II. Motion Practice (For Civil Cases, Unless Otherwise Noted)

  1. Requirements for Specific Motions

    1. Summary Judgment

      See Rule 56 and the applicable local civil rules. The time for filing summary judgment motions is set by the pretrial scheduling order rather than by local civil rule.

    2. Continuance

      See local civil rule 40.1.

    3. In Limine (Civil and Criminal Cases)

      The judge's trial docket setting order provides that motions in limine must not be filed as a matter of course. If filed, counsel must file and serve them on the opposing parties at least 14 days before the date of the trial setting. Responses must be filed and served at least 7 days before the date of the trial setting. Replies to responses will not be permitted. Motions in limine must be limited to matters that meet the following requirements: (1) the matter cannot adequately be raised by trial objection without prejudice to the moving party and (2) the prejudice of mentioning the matter in the presence of the jury cannot be cured by an instruction from the court. Motions in limine must include neither "standard" requests not tailored to a case-specific matter, nor issues presented in order to obtain substantive rulings that should have been requested in advance of trial by appropriate motion.

    4. Other (Civil and Criminal Cases)

      The judge's scheduling order and trial docket setting order provide deadlines for filing motions. If the judge imposes other requirements on a specific motion, he will advise the parties by order.


  2. Hearing

    The judge follows local civil rule 7.1(g), which provides that unless otherwise directed by the presiding judge, oral argument on a motion will not be held.

III. Discovery (Civil Cases)

  1. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)

    26(a)(2): Parties must comply with 26(a)(2) by the dates specified in the judge's scheduling order.

  2. Filing Discovery Material

    See
    local civil rule 5.2.

 

IV. Trial Procedures (For Civil and Criminal Cases, Unless Otherwise Noted)

  1. Marking and Exchanging Exhibits

    All exhibits, except those offered solely for impeachment, that a party intends to offer at trial must be marked with gummed labels or tags that identify them by the exhibit number under which they will be offered at trial, and must be exchanged with opposing parties at least 14 days before the date of the trial setting. When practicable, a copy of the exhibits must be furnished to the court. Unless the court advises the parties otherwise, however, they must not deliver trial exhibits, or the court's copies of such exhibits, to the court or to the court reporter before the date the trial actually commences.

    The court construes local civil rule 26.2(a) and (b) to require the exchanging and listing of any exhibit (except impeachment documents) that a party intends to offer in evidence or to use in the presence of the court or jury as a demonstrative aid, regardless whether the party intends to move its admission in evidence. The judge construes narrowly the impeachment exceptions of Rule 26(a)(3) and local civil rule 26.2(a) and (b).

  2. Voir Dire

    The parties must submit proposed voir dire questions, if any, at least 14 days before the date of the trial setting. The judge will conduct the principal voir dire. Unless counsel are otherwise notified, the judge will permit one attorney per side to ask follow-up questions (a time limit of ten minutes is usually imposed). The judge does not normally permit jury questionnaires or surveys.

  3. Proposed Jury Instructions/Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

    A party must submit requested instructions and questions in jury cases and comply with local civil rule 52.1 (proposed findings and conclusions in nonjury cases) no later than 14 days before the date of the trial setting.

    The judge usually requests that, in addition to the printed copy of a party's requested instructions and questions, the party submit a WordPerfect or Word version electronically. Please contact the judicial secretary, Debbie Eubank, (214) 753-2333, for instructions on how to submit them electronically.

  4. Courtroom Decorum

    See local civil rule 83.4 and local criminal rule 57.4.

  5. Electronic Equipment in the Courtroom

    The courtroom is equipped with electronic equipment. Parties with questions concerning the use of this or other electronic equipment should contact the court coordinator, Pat Esquivel, (214) 753-2336, or write a letter to the judge.

  6. Other Civil Cases

    Section VII of the court's Civil Justice Expense and Delay Reduction Plan, Misc. Order No. 46, permits the presiding judge to "limit the length of trial, the number of witnesses each party may present for its case, the number of exhibits each party may have admitted into evidence, and the amount of time each party may have to examine witnesses." The judge imposes time limits on the presentation of evidence, and may set other limits permitted by the Plan. Unless leave of court is obtained, the judge also limits the examination of each witness to direct examination, cross-examination, one redirect examination, and one recross-examination. The judge also follows the scope of cross-examination rule of Fed. R. Evid. 611(b).

 

V. Miscellaneous Procedures (For Civil and Criminal Cases, Unless Otherwise Noted)

  1. Judge's Copy of Documents Filed on Paper and By Electronic Means

    See I(H) above.

  2. Telephone Calls to Chambers

    1. Procedural Information

      Civil Cases. The judicial secretary, Debbie Eubank, is the person with primary responsibility for communicating by telephone with attorneys and litigants. Her telephone number is (214) 753-2333.

      Criminal Cases. The court coordinator, Pat Esquivel, is the person with primary responsibility for communicating by telephone with attorneys and litigants. Her telephone number is (214) 753-2336.

      Other case information can be obtained from the clerk’s office by calling the CM/ECF Help Desk, (214) 753-2633. Do not contact the judge’s law clerks. The judge does not permit his law clerks to take telephone calls from attorneys or litigants.

      Many of the questions that the judge's staff receives from lawyers and litigants are answered by the federal rules of civil and criminal procedure, the local rules, or the judge's scheduling proposal, scheduling, and trial docket setting orders. The judge and his staff desire that callers receive prompt, courteous, and accurate responses to their questions. To continue this level of service, it is necessary that callers avoid contacting the staff to ask questions that are answered by the rules and the judge's orders.

    2. Scheduling Information

      Civil Cases. This information may be requested from the judicial secretary, Debbie Eubank,
      (214) 753-2333, if it is not already provided by order or other appropriate notice.


      Criminal Cases. This information may be requested from the court coordinator, Pat Esquivel,
      (214) 753-2336, if it is not already provided by order or other appropriate notice.

    3. Status of Motion/Proposed Order

      Civil Cases. This information may be requested from the judicial secretary, Debbie Eubank,
      (214) 753-2333.

      Criminal Cases. This information may be requested from the court coordinator, Pat Esquivel,
      (214) 753-2336.

      This information may also be obtained from the clerk's office by calling the CM/ECF Help Desk,
      (214) 753-2633.

    4. Other

      Civil Cases. This information may be requested from the judicial secretary, Debbie Eubank,
      (214) 753-2333, if it is not already provided by order or other appropriate notice.

      Criminal Cases. This information may be requested from the court coordinator, Pat Esquivel,
      (214) 753-2336, if it is not already provided by order or other appropriate notice.

      It may also be obtained from the clerk's office by calling the CM/ECF Help Desk, (214) 753-2633.


  3. Faxed Document

    Faxed documents are not accepted except in rare instances that present emergencies that prevent filing by other expedited means, such as electronically or by courier. In those instances where facsimile filing is permitted, the judge’s staff will provide counsel with appropriate instructions.

  4. Electronic Case Filing

    Pursuant to local civil rule 5.1(e) and local criminal rule 49.2(f), the court grants the parties the option of filing pleadings, motions, or other papers on paper. Filing by electronic means is permitted, not required.

  5. Electronic Case Filing

    The judge administers the oath to attorneys who seek admission to the bar of the Northern District of Texas, or to attorneys who have been admitted to another bar subject to taking that bar's oath, at his weekly 9:00 a.m. Friday criminal docket. Although no advance appointment is necessary, it is advisable to call ahead to ensure that a docket will be held as scheduled. Counsel must be present in the courtroom, and present their paperwork to the courtroom clerk, no later than 9:00 a.m. because the judge begins his docket with attorney admissions and does not conduct them after the criminal docket has commenced. The judge does not conduct attorney admissions at other dates and times.

    Attorneys who are taking the oath of admission to the Northern District of Texas must be introduced and sponsored by a member of this court's bar who is currently in good standing. It is customary for the sponsor to make brief "positive" statements about the attorney seeking admission and then to move for the attorney's admission. Attorneys who have been admitted to another bar subject to taking that bar's oath (e.g., another federal district court or the State Bar of Texas) need not be accompanied by a sponsor.



 

VI. Law Clerk

  1. Job Requirements

    Law clerks must meet all United States government requirements for employment as a law clerk to a United States District Judge.

  2. Application Procedures

    Persons interested in applying for law clerkships must use the OSCAR system—found at https://oscar.uscourts.gov—and follow the application requirements. All law clerk applications are submitted electronically, using OSCAR.