PREFERENCES REGARDING COMMUNICATION BETWEEN COUNSEL AND THE COURT, INCLUDING E-MAIL. IS THERE A PREFERRED MEANS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN LETTERS/FAXES, TELEPHONE, AND E-MAIL?
Counsel may communicate emergencies with the court by email to judicial assistant or law clerk, copying opposing counsel. Letters or faxes are acceptable.
PREFERENCES REGARDING COMMUNICATION BETWEEN COUNSEL OR PARTIES (IF SELF-REPRESENTED) AND THE COURT'S JUDICIAL ASSISTANT OR LAW CLERK, INCLUDING E-MAIL.
Counsel may communicate to the court's judicial assistant or law clerk by email, copying opposing counsel or parties (if self-represented).
PREFERENCES REGARDING TELEPHONE VS. IN-PERSON CONFERENCE
No preference; depends upon issue.
PREFERENCES REGARDING TELEPHONIC TESTIMONY
Prefer the parties do not inconvenience teachers or other professionals by taking time off from work to be in court for custody or support hearings. Telephonic testimony for them is preferable.
Requests for telephonic testimony by participants in a court hearing should be submitted to the Court in writing and state if opposing counsel or parties (if self-represented) concur.
COURTESY COPIES OF MOTIONS, BRIEFS, ETC. DOES THE JUDGE WANT AN EXTRA COPY FOR LAW CLERK? WOULD JUDGE WANT DOCUMENTS SENT ELECTRONICALLY?
One courtesy copy to chambers is sufficient. Copies of pleadings may be sent by email or fax. When appropriate include scheduling orders or rule to show cause orders.
REQUIREMENTS FOR SEALING RECORDS
Records are not sealed unless appropriate under the law.
GENERAL PROCEDURE FOR SCHEDULING NON-JURY TRIALS/CONFERENCES (LENGTH OF NOTICE, FORM OF NOTIFICATION, ETC.)
Follow Dauphin County Local Civil Rule 215.2 Judge will issue a scheduling order promptly after receiving the assignment from the Court Administrator's Office. If requested, available conference/hearing dates may be emailed to counsel if supplied to judicial assistant. Supply proposed order.
POLICIES REGARDING CONTINUANCES
Request should be in the form of a motion served on the opposing counsel or self-represented party. Motion should aver the opposing counsel or party has been contacted and has no opposition to request. Supply proposed order.
POLICIES CONCERNING PRE-TRIAL STATUS CONFERENCES AND CASE MANAGEMENT ORDERS
Requests for pre-trial status conference are encouraged if the parties are unable to resolve discovery, scheduling, etc. See our standard case management order:
POLICIES FOR SUBMITTING MOTIONS IN LIMINE, INCLUDING WHETHER OR NOT A BRIEF IS REQUIRED
Motions in Limine should be filed as soon as the issue presents in civil cases or within deadlines set forth in the case management order but preferably no later than the pre-trial conference date. Briefs are only necessary where the issue is unusual or complex (or where requested by the court after review). Copies of controlling cases should be supplied in some cases. Supply proposed order.
TIME FRAME FOR SUBMITTING TRIAL BRIEFS/PROPOSED JURY INSTRUCTIONS
Trial briefs should be presented at the pre-trial conference.
Proposed jury instructions must be submitted before the first date of trial using the most recent edition of the Pa Suggested Standard Jury Instructions.
PREFERENCES REGARDING VOIR DIRE, INCLUDING WHETHER COURT OR COUNSEL CONDUCTS VOIR DIRE AND WHETHER COURT REQUIRES SUBMISSION OF REQUESTED QUESTIONS PRIOR TO JURY SELECTION
Counsel conducts the voir dire; proposed questions need not be submitted in advance unless any have the potential for being problematic. In the latter case, questions should be raised as part of pre-trial motion in limine and addressed in pre-trial brief and at the pre-trial conference.
PREFERENCE AS TO WHETHER COUNSEL SHOULD SIT/STAND DURING WITNESS EXAMINATION
Counsel may remain at counsel table or at the bar so long as counsel's voice is clearly heard by the Court, court reporter, jury and witness.
PREFERENCE FOR PRE-MARKING EXHIBITS
Please have all proposed exhibits marked prior to trial (bench or jury) by the Court Reporter.
If there are any exhibits during the trial of which a photo is required for the record (for example showing the similarity between a piece of hard pretzel and crack cocaine) a Polaroid camera photo should be taken of the demonstration and marked as an exhibit.
Any large exhibits such as drawings on a black chalk board, drawing on a paper board by a witness, a photo shall be taken and marked as an exhibit for permanent record purposes (See: Dauphin County Local Rule of Civil Rule 223.2)
Following Closing Arguments and Charge to the Jury in Jury Trials counsel will be required to review on the record exhibits (seriatim). If it is agreed they will go down to the jury during deliberations, they should be handed (on the record) to the Court Clerk. If it is agreed the exhibits should not, they should be placed on the Court Reporter's Desk. If there is a disagreement, they should be placed on the Clerk's Desk. All exhibits that are agreed can go to the jury will be taken by the Tipstaff to the Jury. Then a discussion and debate on those exhibits for which there is a controversy will be addressed.
HOW TO ORDER TRANSCRIPTS
Requests for transcripts should follow the Dauphin County Local Rule of Criminal Procedure 115; Rule of Civil Procedure 227.3 or Rule of Civil Procedure 1930.2 and only request the necessary portions of the transcript.
Generally only performs ceremonies for friends and relatives.
USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES
See this order for rules on electronic devices in the courtroom, which I generally approve for counsel, but not for jurors.
PREFERENCES/PROCEDURES IN JUDGE'S ASSIGNED AREAS
DOMESTIC RELATIONS – SUPPORT
The Domestic Relations Office (8th Floor, Human Services Building, 25 South Front Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 717-255-2796 Phone/717-780-6849 Fax) is responsible for working with families to establish and enforce support orders for children and spouses. It includes administrators, conference officers, enforcement officers, an attorney and various technical and clerical staff. DRO is divided into six (6) teams, client services, fiscal, court, local, interstate and administrative sections. Management of the DRO is overseen by the President Judge.
As in all Domestic Relations Offices, the Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES), automated computer system, tracks cases and keeps financial records. PACSES also provides tools to enforce support orders. In 2014, the Dauphin County DRO caseload exceeded 13,550 cases. Clients filed more than 2,590 new cases along with approximately 1,400 petitions to modify existing support orders. The Dauphin County DRO collected more than 37. million dollars.
After a plaintiff/obligee files a child and/or spousal support complaint or a modification petition, a conference is held by a DR Conference Officer within 3-5 weeks. When the clients involved (obligee or obligor) are unable to agree about the support to be paid, the Domestic Relations conference officer recommends to the Court the amount of money, insurance coverage, etc. for support, based on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Support guidelines set forth in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1910. If one of the parties appeals the initial court order, upon timely filing (20 days) and paying the filing fee ($15), a de novo hearing is held by the Court within 4-6 weeks thereafter.
DRO APPEALS COURT
As the Domestic Relations Judge, I conduct an average of three half-day appeal sessions each month at 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM court sessions. About 25 cases are scheduled for each session. Each party should read the DRO Blue Book and familiarize themselves with the support guidelines, as they are expected to participate in the computations under those guidelines in their case.
Support appeal cases are generally called in court by Kim Robison, Director. The parties and counsel should present themselves at the bar of the courtroom, before the judge. Ms. Robison gives a summary of the case history and computations made by the DR conference officers, followed by her computations, if she has arrived at a different figure. Legal counsel for each party presents to the judge the reasons for their appeal and an offer of proof of their clients and witnesses' (if any) testimony. The parties are sworn in and adopt/affirm that offer on basic factual information relevant to the issues on appeal and testify concerning any factual corrections or additions (this eliminates lengthy testimony). Additional testimony and cross examination may be presented as necessary. The Judge generally issues her decision immediately. The parties are requested to be quietly seated in the courtroom as DRO staff prepares the Court Order on the PACSES computer. All parties will receive a copy of the Court's Order immediately following their hearing.
Enforcement conferences are scheduled based upon one of the following: 1) A PACSES generated delinquent (30 days) list printed at the end of each month; 2) Referrals from DRO coworkers that may have noticed noncompliance; 3) Data Integrity Lists (clean-up) from PACSES periodically generated to enhance enforcement; 4) Complaints from plaintiffs/obligees.
To collect support payments, various enforcement remedies are used by DRO including wage attachments, automatic bank withdrawals, Financial Institution Data Matches, bank account seizures, federal and state tax return intercepts, drivers and professional license suspensions, as well as DR enforcement conferences and contempt hearings. When an obligor fails to pay support in accordance with the Court's order, the obligor is scheduled for an enforcement conference. If payment is not received or otherwise resolved at the conference or the defendant fails to appear, the case is scheduled for Contempt Court, which is held within 4-6 weeks thereafter. Notices are mailed to last known addresses of both plaintiff/obligee and defendant/obligor. As of January 2013 Contempt Court proceedings are heard by Judges John Cherry and Bernard Coates.
For more information about Dauphin County Domestic Relations Office: Click Here
All custody cases filed in the Prothonotary's Office are scheduled generally within 30 days for a Conciliation Conference before a Conciliation Officer. If the case does not settle before the Conciliator, it is assigned to a civil court judge by the Deputy Court Administrator.
Upon receiving assignment of a custody matter, Judge Turgeon issues the following standard scheduling order:
Judge Turgeon requires every party in a Custody action, prior to attending the 4 hour educational seminar for parents (presented by Interworks (236-6630) held in the Courthouse), to read the "Planning for Shared Parenting - A Guide for Parents Living Apart," prepared through a collaborative effort of mental health and legal professionals in the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Counsel are expected to have previously met and attempted to resolve as many issues as possible.
At the pre-trial conference the parties must provide their certificate of completion of the Seminar for Families in Conflict as well as the proposed Affidavit concerning criminal history and their proposed parenting plan.
During the pre-trial conference, the Court will meet with counsel first and based on counsels' "offers of proof" the Court will generally suggest the parameters for further settlement negotiations with their clients. After counsel confer with their clients, if appropriate, the Court will meet with the parties and counsel in chambers, if counsel believes it might be helpful in settling the case.
If the case does not settle at the pre-trial conference and/or the parties seek custody evaluations or mediation, the date for trial may be rescheduled under the following form Order:
Immediately prior to a custody trial, the Judge will meet with counsel in chambers to narrow the trial issues. At this time, frequently parties are very close to an agreement and the Court is able to conciliate or mediate a settlement, sometimes after meeting with the parties and/or child, if appropriate. If a witness' testimony is to be telephonically presented, counsel will generally present it in chambers via the judge's speaker telephone. In trial, counsel will present offers of proof prior to each witness and party, eliminating the necessity for a lot of uncontested basic factual background information. Prior to receiving testimony from other witnesses or following the parents' testimony, and with the agreement of counsel and parties the Judge will interview the child/ren alone in chambers (along with the court reporter) as this is the best way to make the child feel comfortable and in turn provide candid answers. Counsel has the right to provide questions to the Judge. Following the child's testimony, the Judge usually meets with counsel in chambers to advise them of the essence of the child's testimony, following which many settlements are reached. At the conclusion of the trial the Court will issue a Final Court Order-Parenting Plan.
The following is the Court's standard Custody Order and the recommended format for settled custody cases as well:
In high-conflict custody cases, following the issuance of a final Custody Order-Parenting Plan, the parties may agree for the appointment of someone to resolve minor custody issues under a Mediation/Arbitration agreement, a draft form for review and modification as needed by legal counsel, is located below: