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Browsing in Civil > General Trial Procedures >

Judge Donald S. Black

  Judge Donald S. Black

Nancy Loveless

Sovann Kem
(559) 457-6319
(559) 457-1624
  1. Schedule. Morning trial sessions will generally commence at 9:00. A lunch break will be taken at 12:00. The afternoon session will commence at 1:30. Evening recess will generally be taken at 3:30, depending on the Court’s law and motion calendar. These times are subject to modification based upon other calendars, which may need to be completed by the court and the progress of the trial. Counsel are expected to be punctual and ready to proceed on time.
  2. Exhibits
    • All exhibits must be exchanged between counsel before commencement of trial and submitted to the court.
    • Exhibits will not be marked by the court until counsel requests it or they are shown to a witness.
    • Multiple page exhibits must be separately bound or included under a separate tab in a binder and each page must be separately numbered.
    • Exhibit sets shall be prepared for each counsel, the court, the clerk, and the witness.
    • Photographs shall be Bates-stamped, presented in clear slip-covers or 3-hole punched so that they may be placed in an exhibit binder.
    • Counsel shall jointly prepare a single, joint exhibit list which accurately describes each exhibit submitted to the court.
    • Counsel shall meet and confer before trial to agree upon foundational issues, to the extent possible.
    • Absent a stipulation or with the permission of the court, counsel may not display any exhibit to the jury unless it has first been received into evidence.
  3. Witnesses. Counsel should provide the clerk and the reporter with a list of prospective witnesses and put the names of potential witnesses on the board for jury selection.
  4. The Court should be informed in advance, if possible, of any unusual legal issues or evidentiary matters that are anticipated during the trial in order to avoid any unnecessary delays for the jury. “Unusual evidentiary matters” include, but are not limited to, any question about prior criminal activity, which must be raised outside the presence of the jury before being asked in the jury’s presence.
  5. Counsel should meet and confer as to all possible factual stipulations on uncontroverted matters.
  6. Jury Selection. 21 prospective jurors will be seated for voir dire. Voir dire has specific and limited purposes. CCP Section 222.5 will be strictly enforced with or without objection from opposing counsel. Among other things, Section 222.5 provides: “For purposes of this section, an ‘improper question’ is any question which, as its dominant purpose, attempts to precondition the prospective jurors to a particular result, indoctrinate the jury, or question the prospective jurors concerning the pleadings or the applicable law.” Challenges for cause will be expressed in the hallway behind the courtroom after all counsel have completed questioning.
  7. Counsel may walk through the well and approach witnesses without permission.
  8. Speaking objections or argument regarding objections are not permitted unless invited by the court. State the legal objection only. Likewise, counsel should never suggest to any witness, with a speech appended to the objection, what the witness should say or has forgotten to say.
  9. Jury Instructions and Verdict Forms. Jury instructions and verdict forms must be submitted before the first witness is called. Counsel must meet and confer and submit a packet of all requested instructions to which there is no objection and a separate packet of instructions as to which there are objections. If objections are made to any jury instructions on other than relevancy grounds, the objecting party must also submit an instruction that is believed to be non-objectionable. Each instruction must indicate the party or parties requesting it, all blanks must be filled in and any irrelevant portions redacted.
  10. Unless the court is informed otherwise, it will be assumed that counsel agree to the following:
    1. Unless otherwise noted on the record, whenever the court is in session, all jurors, alternates, and counsel are present.
    2. Waiving the statutory language of the admonition to the jury at separation (CCP 611) so that after the Court gives the required admonition at the outset of the trial, it need not at each subsequent recess or adjournment repeat or remind the jury of this admonition.
  11. Counsel should lodge with the clerk all depositions to be used in the trial. No reading from depositions (other than for purposes of impeachment) is permitted without reasonable notice of each page and line reference to the court and other counsel.
  12. A short, non-argumentative statement of the case for reading to the jury during jury selection must be jointly filed.
  13. Counsel are responsible for arranging for and paying for a court reporter.
  14. Jury fees and mileage are to be paid not later than the last day of trial before reading of verdict.
  15. Counsel has full responsibility to arrange for the appearance of witnesses during the presentation of their case so as to eliminate any possible delay in the proceedings. The court suggests that counsel confer during trial as to when witnesses are needed. Counsel are expected to inform the court immediately upon discovering a problem with scheduling that might delay the trial so that arrangements can be made for the appearance of other witnesses out of order. If counsel does not comply with this procedure and there are no witnesses available to testify it is equivalent to resting. Counsel are required to inform each other at the end of the trial day who their witnesses will be for the following day.
  16. Witnesses who are excused by the court following their testimony are not subject to recall unless requested by counsel or for good cause shown pursuant to Evidence Code Section 778.
  17. If deposition transcripts are to be read to the jury counsel are expected to meet and confer in advance regarding any objections that will be offered to any of such testimony so as not to take up the time of the court or the jury. If objections to any of the testimony are raised, they must be addressed outside of the jury’s presence and without inconveniencing the jury.
  18. The following questions are generally not permitted: “Didn’t you testify yesterday that . . . ?” “Didn’t you just testify that . . .?” “Were you in court when John Doe testified that . . . ?” The jury has already heard what the witness testified to and, thus, these questions are cumulative and unnecessarily consumptive of time. The court may intervene even without objection if such questions are asked.
  19. Bench conferences are generally not permitted and hallway conferences are strongly discouraged. No record is made of such conferences unless counsel requests it at the following recess.
  20. While the court always appreciates stipulations as to admissibility of exhibits or other evidence, stipulations should never be offered by counsel in the presence of the jury unless counsel has previously discussed the stipulation with counsel and the court outside of the jury’s presence.
  21. The Court is always willing to assist with settlement.