Mandatory Certification Regarding Generative Artificial Intelligence
All attorneys and pro se litigants appearing before the Court must, together with their notice of appearance, file on the docket a certificate attesting either that no portion of any filing will be drafted by generative artificial intelligence (such as ChatGPT, Harvey.AI, or Google Bard) or that any language drafted by generative artificial intelligence will be checked for accuracy, using print reporters or traditional legal databases, by a human being. These platforms are incredibly powerful and have many uses in the law: form divorces, discovery requests, suggested errors in documents, anticipated questions at oral argument. But legal briefing is not one of them. Here’s why. These platforms in their current states are prone to hallucinations and bias. On hallucinations, they make stuff up—even quotes and citations. Another issue is reliability or bias. While attorneys swear an oath to set aside their personal prejudices, biases, and beliefs to faithfully uphold the law and represent their clients, generative artificial intelligence is the product of programming devised by humans who did not have to swear such an oath. As such, these systems hold no allegiance to any client, the rule of law, or the laws and Constitution of the United States (or, as addressed above, the truth). Unbound by any sense of duty, honor, or justice, such programs act according to computer code rather than conviction, based on programming rather than principle. Any party believing a platform has the requisite accuracy and reliability for legal briefing may move for leave and explain why. Accordingly, the Court will strike any filing from a party who fails to file a certificate on the docket attesting that they have read the Court’s judge-specific requirements and understand that they will be held responsible under Rule 11 for the contents of any filing that they sign and submit to the Court, regardless of whether generative artificial intelligence drafted any portion of that filing. A template Certificate Regarding Judge-Specific Requirements is provided here.
Effective 6/12/2020: COVID-19 Standing Rules for Proceedings in the Courtroom of the Honorable Brantley Starr in the Earle Cabell Federal Building and United States Courthouse
Copy Requirements for Electronic Filing
Effective 3/24/2020 – Judge Starr has temporarily suspended the requirement for a judge’s copy of a document electronically filed. A judge’s copy of a document electronically filed is not required.
Submission of Proposed Orders
All motions require a proposed order that must be emailed to Starr_Orders@txnd.uscourts.gov and must be in a Word format (not PDF). The subject line of the email must include the case number and the document number of the referenced motion.
- Criminal Sentencing
- Filings within 1 Week of Sentencing: The Court strongly desires to read and carefully consider each filing before sentencing. If either party makes a filing less than 7 days before the date of the sentencing hearing, the Court reserves the right to unilaterally reset the sentencing for a future week.
- Lengthy sentencings: Sentencings last 30–45 minutes on average. The Court plans its criminal calendar around this average. If your sentencing is going to run longer than average (due to witness testimony or live character witnesses), please inform the courtroom deputy at least 1 week before sentencing. The Court may need to continue your sentencing to allow for sufficient time for your case.
- Pre-Trial Filings
- Deposition Designations: The Court wants parties to submit deposition page/line designations and objections for only witnesses who are unavailable under the Federal Rules or Civil Procedure 32. There is no need for deposition designations for live witnesses. The Court’s scheduling orders require a joint filing with all designations, citing to the Federal Rule of Evidence number for each page/line objection, an explanation of objections and responses, and the full depositions. The purpose of the objections and responses in explanatory form is to enable the Court to rule on them in writing. This means the written explanation and response substitutes for a sidebar discussion of an objection. The Court will rule on the objections in time to edit the deposition video or transcript before trial.
- Voir dire: The Court asks a round of voir dire questions first, focusing on who prospective jurors know, whether they have served as jurors before, what the burden of proof is, whether they can follow the law, and whether they have valid excuses to not serve. The Court also allows counsel to ask their own questions of the venire panel for 15–30 minutes per side, depending on the case. After voir dire. The Court handles any excuses first, then challenges for cause, and then allows the parties to exercise their preemptory strikes.
- Proposed voir dire questions: When counsel files proposed voir dire, these questions should include questions counsel would like to ask (not questions counsel wants the Court to ask). The Court will not allow questions of the venire panel it has not preapproved at the pretrial conference (other than reasonable follow up questions). All issues should be resolved at the pre-trial conference.
- Settlements During Trial:
- Parties should strive to settle at least two weeks before trial.
- However, if parties settle during trial, the terms of the settlement agreement must be either filed on the docket in unredacted form or disclosed in open court for the case to be moot and the jury to be discharged. The parties only have a right to confidential settlement agreements before a jury is sworn in.
- Exhibit Objections at Trial:
- If time allows, the Court will rule on exhibit objections at the pretrial conference. Time rarely allows. If it doesn’t, the Court handles exhibit objections on the record but outside the hearing of the jury to the extent possible.
- Counsel presenting testimony must disclose by email to opposing counsel and court staff at 6pm each evening the witnesses and exhibits it plans to introduce the following day. There is no need to list exhibits in the order counsel intends to take them up or group them with witnesses. Instead, counsel should list exhibits in numerical order.
- By 8pm, opposing counsel must respond with which pretrial written objections it maintains in explanatory form, not shorthand form.
- The Court will hear argument on those objections to the extent time allows before the jury arrives at 8:45am. These morning sessions on the record but without the jury typically begin at 8:30am.
- The Court will reserve ruling on foundation or authenticity objections until trial when the witness sets the foundation, unless the foundation is set with a business records affidavit that complies with Federal Rules of Evidence 803(6) and 902(11). Note that with regard to emails, a business records affidavit from an entity like Google authenticating emails in a Gmail account overcomes hearsay and authenticity objections only for the header portion of the email and not the content of the email. United States v. Ayelotan, 917 F.3d 394, 402 (5th Cir. 2019). In addition, for the contents of an email to overcome the hearsay objection, the parties must satisfy Rule 803(6)’s five requirements with respect to each email. See In re Oil Spill, No. MDL 2179, 2012 WL 85447, at *3 (E.D. La. Jan. 11, 2012).
- If the Court overrules all objections to an exhibit at the pretrial conference or in the morning session, it does not mean that exhibit is admitted into evidence. Judge Starr admits exhibits into evidence only in front of the jury and when a witness is on the stand.
- When an exhibit is offered into evidence in front of the jury and with a witness, opposing counsel can refer to “prior objections,” and the Court can refer to its prior ruling without the need for a sidebar.
- Exchanging Opening and Closing Demonstratives:
- Must exchange by email proposed PowerPoints or other demonstratives by 6pm the night before opening and closing and must copy Court personnel.
- Opposing counsel must object by email by 8pm.
- The Court will rule on any objections the following morning after hearing argument.
- Counsel must be prepared to make adjustments to demonstratives if the Court sustains an objection.
- Demonstratives Marked for Identification v. Charts or Summaries in Evidence:
- Generally speaking, the Court treats documents created for trial as demonstratives that get marked as exhibits for identification only. Such documents are not evidence and do not go back to the jury, but they may be published to the jury during trial.
- The exception to this rule is for charts or summaries that are necessary to the jury’s understanding of the evidence. One example is a summary of voluminous evidence. Another example is an excerpt of evidence that is difficult to comprehend, such as a subpoena return from a social media platform that commingles relevant conversations with irrelevant ones.
- Scope of Cross Examination and Recalling Witnesses:
- Unless there is an agreement by the parties otherwise, the Court requires the scope of cross examination to not exceed the scope of direct examination (and recross to not exceed redirect).
- If the defense has designated and subpoenaed a witness also on the plaintiff/government’s witness list, counsel should confer before the pretrial conference on whether they will call that witness once and allow wide-open cross.
- Objections During Opening and Closing:
- The Court highly disfavors objections during opening or closing, as attorneys frequently use them to disrupt the rhythm of opposing counsel’s argument.
- The Court will call for a sidebar following an opening or closing, at which point opposing counsel may seek a curative instruction or new trial at that time.
- The Court will interrupt any opening, call for a sidebar, and then admonish counsel in the jury’s presence if counsel violates a limine ruling.
- No Speaking Objections in Front of the Jury:
- Judge Starr disallows arguing over legal issues in front of the jury.
- Accordingly, objections should be ideally an evidence rule number (ex: “Objection. 611.”). At worst, objections should be one or two substantive words (ex: “Objection. Leading.”).
- If counsel cannot object in this fashion, or wishes to explain its basis, counsel should ask for a sidebar.
- Time Limits:
- The Court imposes a time limit on civil trials and some criminal trials.
- The Court will set the allowable time at the pretrial conference or written order and specify the number of hours of trial time per party. The Court sets this time limit after reviewing the parties’ pretrial filings and hearing the parties’ estimate of trial time.
- Time that counts against a party’s limit is time spent in front of the jury or time spent at a sidebar that the party loses. Some sidebars result in a draw, in which case the Court splits the time amongst the parties. The Court aims to minimize sidebar time with morning sessions to review exhibit objections and other legal matters that should be handled outside the presence of the jury.
- If a party reaches its time limit, the Court will entertain a request for more time that specifies how much more time is needed and proffers what evidence that additional time will yield. In determining whether to grant more time, the Court will consider whether a requesting party has efficiently used its previous time. Inefficient uses of time can include such things as discussing irrelevant exhibits, asking irrelevant questions, losing sidebars, and losing objections for questions that don’t conform to the rules of evidence (e.g., leading witnesses, calling for speculation).
- Detention Hearing Following Guilty Verdict in Criminal Cases:
- When a criminal defendant is on pretrial release and the jury returns a guilty verdict, the Court takes the defendant into custody. Counsel may file a motion for release, which the Court refers for expedited consideration by the magistrate judge on duty. But this expedited consideration is often not on the day the jury returns its verdict.