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The Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County
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Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Commissioner Jerry Bernstein
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Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues
Many motions will be tickled until the next court date, when appropriate. Attorneys should not assume that a motion to continue will be granted and not appear. If a motion for a new determination of probable cause is filed, defense counsel should ensure that the Court gets a copy of the transcript. It is also helpful, but not mandatory, if copies of case law are attached to the motion.
Trial Practice and Protocol
Monday through Thursday; mornings from 10:45 until 12 noon, and in the afternoon from 1:45 until about 4:45 p.m. There will be a break in the middle of the afternoon. Friday is set aside for motions and evidentiary hearings.
Attorney voir dire is permitted. There is questioning of the entire panel and not strike and replace. There is usually a panel of 45 prospective jurors.
Trial Practice and Procedure
Initial Pretrial Conferences:
Generally utilized to determine if discovery has been complied with by both the state and the defense. The Court inquires if there has been a plea offer made and what the plea deadline is. At that time, a status conference is set in about thirty days around the time of the plea deadline set by the state. A trial management conference and trial date will be set at that time.
In many cases, there will be a change of plea. Please give a copy of the plea agreement to my bailiff or clerk before I receive it. Often there will be a continuance requested for time to seek a plea deviation from the county attorney’s office. The Court appreciates deviation requests be made before the status conference so that the county attorney’s office can provide a timely answer. Attorneys should also consider whether a settlement conference should be requested. Inquiry will be made as to progression of discovery, in particular, interviews. Often, the TMC and trial dates will be affirmed at this setting.
Trial Management Conference:
Generally scheduled about 30 to 45 days after the status conference. The trial date is usually scheduled to start about 2 to 4 days later. Due to the high volume of the court, more than one trial is scheduled for that day on most occasions. The Court will try to advise the attorneys of the likelihood of their cases proceeding as scheduled. Continuances will be granted for cause. The Court will try to determine if there are any lingering issues that need to be discussed.
Jury selection usually begins in the morning at about 11 a.m. Motions in liminie may be argued after jury selection if they haven’t already been heard. Pre-trial statements should be handed to the judicial assistant setting forth a list of witnesses, a short fact statement and a realistic length of trial anticipated. Exhibits should be provided to the clerk before jury selection. Any delays cause unnecessary stress on the clerk who has many responsibilities in addition to the trial. Juror questions: On most occasions, they will be discussed at a bench conference on the record. Usually, the questions will be asked after the attorney questions. Then the attorneys may ask additional questions based upon the jury questions posed and answered.
Cell phones should be turned off. Attorneys may have theirs on vibrate (low volume). Attorneys are often scheduled in several different courts on a particular morning. If you find that you are going to be delayed, please have the courtesy to call the division. We are usually in trial by 10:45 a.m. and need to have the morning calendar completed. This division is blessed with a wonderful, dedicated staff. Rudeness to the staff will not be tolerated. Please keep conversations unrelated to the cases to a minimum. They can be quite distracting and makes it more difficult for the clerk and bailiff to hear what is transpiring on cases.
Other Courtroom Policies and Recommendations
There is a Spanish language interpreter present for the morning calendar only on Mondays. All Spanish speaker cases will be set on Mondays only.
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