68th Judicial District Court
Hon. Martin Hoffman, Presiding
Updated Nov. 14, 2008
The Court will set a case for trial once an answer is filed. All Non-Jury cases are required to appear for trial unless otherwise notified by the Court. Cases that are not reached are automatically reset to the next available trial date and/or any date the parties agree on.
A. Motions for Continuance – the Court requires a motion be filed for any requests to move a trial date and does not have any specific requirement on how early or late the request should be made. The Court will rule on any Agreed Motions for Continuance on submission and are normally granted, with the exception of very old cases. For those motions that are not agreed to, the Court requires a hearing be set. A first motion for continuance is usually granted if requested at a reasonable time prior to trial.
B. Scheduling Orders – Once the defendant(s) has filed an answer, the case is ready to be set for trial.
C. Special Settings – The Court will grant special trial settings for lengthy trials, witnesses and/or parties with handicaps or serious health conditions, out-of-town parties and/or witnesses, and other appropriate circumstances. Unless determined by the Judge, the parties will need to have a hearing to obtain a special setting.
D. Pre-Trial – the Court will set these hearings based on the complexity of the case and will usually be heard the Friday before trial. The coordinator will contact all parties for scheduling (non-jury cases and motor vehicle accidents will not have pre-trials unless specifically granted by the Judge).
E. Voir Dire – The Court allows parties to conduct most of voir dire and will allow juror questionnaires in most cases. The Court does not usually set time limits, but will enforce any time limits agreed on for voir dire. The Court will also impose time limits for small and simple cases. The Court usually asks questions concerning hardship of jurors. The Court allows jurors to be struck outside the presence of the panel and will ask if they can agree upon any strikes for cause.
F. Jury Charges – Proposed charges should be presented the first day of trial. The Court requests that these documents be presented in hard copy and disk or thumbdrive in Microsoft Word or Word Perfect.
G. Trial Procedure – The Court usually requests that parties agree to specific time limits to their opening/closing statements. If parties are unable to reach an agreement, the Court will impose specific time limits. For example, in many car wreck cases the court will impose a 20-30 minute time limit for opening statements and 30-60 minutes for closing. The court has no specific policies on direct/cross examination. The court prefers the parties stand while making objections during jury trials.
H. Audio/Visual Equipment – The Court provides its own easel, ELMO, overhead projector, video equipment, and DVD/VCR players. Parties should contact the bailiff through the clerk or coordinator for arranging a time to become familiar with the equipment.
A. Weekly Docket – Please contact the clerk’s office to set a hearing. The Court holds hearings throughout the day on Mondays and Fridays (subject to trial). The Court allows the clerks to set them up to one hour in duration. If more than one hour is needed, they will need to get permission from the Judge. The Court will hold one or two short hearings on Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 8:45 am for continuances, discovery motions, minor prove-ups and motions for summary judgment – but must be able to argue these in less than 15 minutes.
B. Submission Docket – The following motions are heard by submission: agreed motions, agreed judgments, nonsuits, orders of dismissal, default Rule 736 foreclosures, unopposed substitution or withdraw of counsel, default judgments, writ of sequestration and agreed motions to substitute mediators.
C. Discovery – The Court expects parties to conference in compliance with local rules prior to making motion regarding discovery disputes. Parties can reach the Judge by contacting the coordinator and the Judge will hear the dispute if available. For medical malpractice cases, the Court will set emergency discovery motions during the first 120 days.
D. Filing briefs and responses – the Court appreciates organized briefs to be filed in brief books with the important cases and/or provisions highlighted. Please include the order to be ruled on as well. The Court has no specific time or other requirements for filing responsive or reply motions other than what is required by the local rules and the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
E. Phone Conferences – The Court does allow phone conferences at the Judge’s discretion. Please contact the clerks or the coordinator to request permission.
F. Associate Judges – The Court uses Associate Judge Snelson to hear motions on Tuesday afternoon’s beginning at 1:30 and Judge Simms to hear motions on Mondays from 2:30-3:30 pm. Judge Hoffman hears all his own summary judgment motions, continuances, discovery motions and minor prove-ups.
G. Guardian/Attorney Ad Litem – The Court will appoint a guardian or attorney ad litem when necessary and only when a motion is filed by one or both parties. The Court appoints guardian ad litems who are experienced in personal injury law.
I. Under advisement – the Court rarely takes rulings or motions under advisement.
The Court allows 60 days from time of filing for the defendant to be served the petition and answer the lawsuit. If after 60 days one or both has not occurred, the Court will set a dismissal hearing 30 days out. The dismissal docket is heard every Monday at 9:00 am in front of the Judge. The Court usually allows a 30 day extension on the dismissal docket for first request. Beyond that, the Court requires written request to be faxed to the court coordinator – it is not necessary to file a motion to retain or for continuance. If an excessive amount of extensions are being requested without any progress on the case, the Court will dismiss the case for want of prosecution (contact the court coordinator for all concerns about the dismissal docket).
If one or all defendants have not been served and/or answered by the dismissal date and nobody appears at the dismissal hearing, the case against those defendants will be dismissed for want of prosecution. Failure to appear at a dismissal hearing could result in the case being dismissed.
A. Default Judgments – once a defendant is served, they have twenty (20) days from the next Monday to answer the lawsuit. If the defendant fails to answer, the case is ripe for default. If a case is on the dismissal docket and a default judgment is submitted before the dismissal date, the coordinator will remove it from the dismissal docket for submission. If the Court denies the default judgment, the case will go back on the dismissal docket to allow the plaintiff time to correct the deficiencies. If no corrections are made and neither party appears at the dismissal hearing, the case will be dismissed.
B. Settled cases – once a case has reached an agreed settlement, it is the responsibility of the parties to contact the coordinator to let the Court know. Once the court has received notice that a case has settled, the case will be removed from the trial docket and will be placed on a dismissal docket 30 days out. If the parties need more time to finalize the settlement, please contact the coordinator for an extension. If an excessive amount of extensions are being requested the Court will reset the case for trial. If an agreed judgment, nonsuit or order of dismissal has not been submitted to the Court by the dismissal date and neither party appears at the dismissal hearing, the case will be dismissed.
CONTACTING THE COURT
A. Faxing/Emailing the Court – the court does allow correspondence to be faxed/emailed. Motions and Orders will not be accepted by fax/email unless specifically granted by the Court. Do not fax a motion or response that is over 15 pages without permission by the Court. Emails can be sent to the Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org and faxed to (214) 653-7569.
B. Contacting the Court after hours – the clerks leave at 4:30 pm and the coordinator leaves at 5:00 pm. You may leave messages for the coordinator and they will be returned promptly the next business day. The clerks will not be available to set hearings passed 4:30 pm. The clerk’s can be reached at (214) 653-7537.