On June 14, 2019, the New York State Bar Association hosted a breakfast at the Westchester County Courthouse with Justices Linda Jamieson and Gretchen Walsh. This was a great opportunity to hear from Westchester’s Commercial Division judges on various topics, including their expectations of attorneys who appear before them. Here are a handful of important takeaways:
The justices expect counsel to abide by Commercial Division Rule 14, which requires good faith negotiations to resolve discovery disputes before seeking judicial intervention.
If assistance is necessary, the judges’ approaches are a bit different. Justice Walsh does not want letters; counsel should contact chambers to schedule a call. Justice Jamieson prefers that counsel first send a letter to identify the issues; the Court will then arrange a conference call, except if the issues are complex, in which case counsel must appear in person.
The justices also advised that if a dispute arises during a deposition, the parties should contact chambers to obtain an immediate ruling while the deposition is still in progress, in order to avoid the need to reopen or continue a deposition at a later date.
Justice Jamieson and Justice Walsh encouraged lawyers to keep briefs “short and concise.” Both justices agreed that there is no need to recite legal standards on dispositive motions and that lawyers should avoid being repetitive. In addition, Justice Jamieson encouraged lawyers to follow her rule requiring the use of tabs to separate exhibits.
Regarding page limits, under Rule 17, opening and opposition briefs must be limited to 7,000 words (approximately 22-23 pages) and reply briefs must be limited to 4,200.
Notably, Justice Walsh will allow multiple defendants to exceed the limit if they join together in a brief.
Rule 19-a Statements of Material Facts:
As discussed in a previous post, when filing and opposing motions for summary judgment in the Westchester Commercial Division, be sure to submit Rule 19-a Statements, as they are very important to both Justice Jamieson and Justice Walsh.
Both justices generally do not hold oral argument but will make an exception to give junior attorneys an opportunity to gain experience arguing motions. As Justice Jamieson said, “we would like to see everyone given a shot.” Justice Walsh said that she is considering amending her rules to allow oral argument if an attorney with five years of experience or less will handle it. Both justices also advised that they ultimately rely on the briefs in deciding motions so, as Justice Walsh said, “oral argument will not make or break you.”
Justice Jamieson and Justice Walsh are both strong proponents of “presumptive” alternative dispute resolution, in which parties will be referred to mediation in the early stages most lawsuits. Justice Jamieson encouraged attorneys to consider mediation before making their first appearance in the case.
Civility and Professionalism:
Gamesmanship will get you nowhere. Both justices expect counsel to be professional and treat each other with civility. In addition, Justice Jamieson does not like when attorneys talk to each other instead of addressing the Court and Justice Walsh will make attorneys appear in person if they cannot agree on adjournments.
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