ATTENTION! The Franklin County Municipal Court is closed today
for holiday observance: Presidents Day.
Judge Amy Salerno
375 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
||By the Civil Rules. I try to run my courtroom in a relaxed atmosphere. Considering the number of cases that come through our courtroom on a daily basis, it is important that the parties, the attorneys, and all other persons involved with the court are willing to discuss the matters with a goal of efficient termination of the cases. It is important to remember that this is the "people's court." Because it is, we have to give the people the benefit of an efficient system.
||Generally, I don't hold status conferences where there is no jury demand. I do hold pretrials when there is a jury demand. No conferences via telephone, I find more is accomplished if the parties are present. I will schedule a status conference or a pretrial at the request of the parties or if the Court feels it is needed.
|Motions and Briefs
||Each week I pull my motions list (both civil and criminal) and rule on all motions that are ripe for decision. Generally, when a motion is filed, it is helpful to send me a courtesy copy. When trial briefs are due or special instructions of law, I require that copies be delivered to me when they are filed with the Clerk.
||It will be my practice that continuances and extensions will be granted if reasonably possible with the understanding that all cases should be resolved within the time frames and guidelines of the Rules of Superintendence.
In all cases, if possible obtain the consent of the other party(s) before requesting a continuance. Forms or simple motions with a space for the new date are fine.
||When there is a jury demand, the parties are sent a letter before the pretrial which describes what is required when they attend the pretrial.
||Settlement discussions are encouraged. The parties should make a good faith effort to settle the case, or at least narrow the issues, before trial.
I generally have settlement conferences on the day of the trial since so many civil cases are tried in this court.
However, if the parties request a special settlement conference, then I will schedule one. I will participate in settlement discussions at pretrial and after. Many of our cases are non-jury trials and I try not to participate in specific settlement discussion since I will be the one hearing the case. I am afraid that what might be said in a settlement conference could influence my decision in the case.
Additionally, Mediators are available, at no cost, and are arranged through the bailiff.
|Pretrial conferences and orders
||I generally do not schedule pretrials that are to be tried to the court, but I always schedule pretrials when there has been a jury demand filed. Jury cases are always scheduled for a pretrial and parties are sent a pretrial letter which tells them the requirements. Counsel are required to confer before the hearing pursuant to Court Rule 6.01 and to make a sincere effort to settle the case and to agree on evidentiary matters about which there is no genuine dispute. Counsel and the parties are required to attend the pretrial hearing unless attendance is excused by the Court for good cause shown prior to the hearing. Discovery should be completed by the time of the pretrial.
Each party shall prepare a written pretrial statement indicating the status of settlement negotiations and a statement of the expected evidence, including an itemization of any special damages claimed.
In pretrial conferences, matters discussed or resolved are: causes of action, damages, case authority, possibility of settlement, trial briefs, and special jury instructions. I do not conduct pretrial conferences by telephone. I find conferences are much more productive if the parties are present.
Items required prior to trial are generally contained in pretrial statement: statement of case and damages; disputed factual issues. Witness list is submitted prior to trial, but subject to addition. In general, parties aren't ready for stipulations or trial exhibits at the time of pretrial. The same is true of depositions and other discovery material to be used at trial.
Special instructions to the jury must be filed ten days before trial with a copy to the court. Note these are special instructions which are unusual and not boilerplate OJI. If instructions aren't filed on time, they won't be given.
Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law are due ten days after trial with a copy to the court.
I have no special procedures for motions in limine.
||I encourage my prosecutor to meet with the attorneys to discuss the cases and if they need guidance, come back and meet with me at the bench or in my chambers. Communications made to the judge outside the presence of either party, or their legal counsel are not permitted.
||Most are oral, with a written jury waiver. I will accept nolo contendere and Alford pleas; Alford pleas are rare. I will discuss sentencing before a plea. I will consider recommendations concerning plea arrangements that involve sentencing.
|Pretrial conferences and orders
||Criminal defendants are to be present at all pretrials. All criminal and traffic cases that have a jury demand are automatically set for a pretrial. Often the prosecution and defense talk at the pretrial. If they want input or involvement from me, they generally request it. I am willing to converse with the parties at pretrial.
||Notice of trial date is given to the prosecution and defense at the pretrial, and notice of the trial date is later mailed by the assignment office.
I will grant continuances anytime they are necessary. However, I am strict in granting continuances on the day the case is set for trial.
My daily schedule varies. There may be a special session such as arraignment; we may be in a week where there are civil and criminal pretrials and court trials. It may be a week we have criminal court trials, pretrials and jury trials scheduled. The daily trial schedule is generally 30-50 cases, plus 30-50 pretrials and revocation hearings.
||I conduct the initial questioning. Then both the prosecutor and the defense counsel are permitted to question the jurors. I ask counsel in alternating order if either side has challenge. I stop when all the challenges are gone or both sides have passed in order.
I treat everyone in a respectful and courteous manner and try to make the courtroom a place where all parties feel that justice is being served.
||I try to conduct my courtroom in a fairly relaxed and flexible manner. No special rules apply, just normal rules of attire for attorneys (coat and tie or appropriate dress for women); parties and witnesses should be appropriately dressed but coat and tie are not necessary. I request that the litigants, counsel for the parties, and the witnesses be respectful to one another and to the other parties in the courtroom. Proper address should be used: Mr., Ms. Mrs., Doctor, etc. I do require examination to be conducted at the lectern. Counsel should ask permission to approach a witness.
||I have no time limits. Exhibits are not used because they have not yet been admitted into evidence.
||Exhibits should be marked ahead of time with copies available for the court and the parties and the originals maintained by the court stenographer. Move to introduce an exhibit when you can. Don't wait until the close of your case. Remember, once an exhibit is admitted into evidence, it can be viewed by the jury.
|Reading of depositions
||I do not permit the use of actors. Most trial attorneys are born actors; so often, if counsel reads the deposition, it turns out the same.
||Qualifications should be confirmed by the party offering testimony during the initial portion of the expert's direct examination. The opposing side should be able to voir dire the expert on qualifications before the witness can express an opinion.
||By the rules.
I require a conference before summation because we must discuss the jury charge before counsel can effectively give a closing argument. I have no time limitations. However, prosecution and defense harm themselves with the jury if they drone on too long. They lose the jurors' attention and anger them as well.
About jurors taking notes. Generally, our trials are not long and I believe jurors can learn much by watching and listening to the witnesses. If a trial were to be long and complicated, I might be receptive to it.
Once an exhibit is admitted, it can be examined by jurors immediately at trial or in the jury room.
It is a rare occasion when a juror, during the trial, requests to ask a question. The juror is instructed to put the question in writing (be specific as possible). When the question is received, the Court discusses the question with counsel and decides whether the question will be presented to the witness.
The jury receives its instructions from the court.
Jury instructions that are not OJI should be submitted in writing with a cite, if possible.
I do not permit counsel to talk with jurors after a verdict until the jurors' two-week term of service is completed. I instruct the jurors that they don't have to talk to counsel, but they may do so if they wish. I realize that taking to jurors is a good learning tool for attorneys.