Here are some pointers that may help the practitioner and litigant in properly preparing for trial, whether on the merits or by summary proceeding.
1. IF YOUR HEARING OFFICER CONFERENCE IS NO LONGER NECESSARY, LET US KNOW: Due to limited time slots for Hearing Officer Conferences, it is imperative that attorneys or litigants who have settled or dismissed their matters set for Conferences notify the Hearing Officer staff as soon as possible so the time slot can be used for another case. The Hearing Officer staff in Lafayette can be contacted at (337) 269-5755 and in Abbeville and Crowley can be contacted at (337) 898-9293.
2. IF YOU HAVE COMPLICATED OR EXTRAORDINARY ISSUES TO BE HEARD AT HEARING OFFICER CONFERENCE: If there are complicated or extraordinary issues that will require a Hearing Officer Conference longer than an hour, the parties shall notify the Hearing Officer of this fact at the time the order to set the Hearing Officer Conference is filed, or immediately upon determining that a longer time is necessary. Thereafter, the Hearing Officer may schedule a longer Hearing Officer Conference to accommodate the issues of the case if time is available.
3. HEARING OFFICER CONFERENCES NOT REQUIRED IN CERTAIN MATTERS. (See Appendix 32.0B of Title IV of Rules for District Courts) Hearing Officer Conferences are not required in the following matters:
(a) Termination of the community property regime in accordance with C.C. Art. 2374(C) which shall be set expeditiously by the Clerk.
(b) A judicial determination that the detailed descriptive list of a party is deemed to constitute the community assets and liabilities in accordance with R.S. 9:2801(A)(1)(a).
(c) Discovery motions which shall be set expeditiously by the Clerk.
(d) Matters that require the services of an attorney ad hoc to locate an absentee party when the appointed attorney has been unable to locate the absentee party.
(e) Preliminary injunctions between spouses as permitted by C.C.P. Art. 3604(B).
(f) Motion for Sanctions.
4. BIFURCATED HEARINGS ON FINAL SPOUSAL SUPPORT: Appendix 32.0B of Title IV of Rules for District Courts provides for a bifurcated hearing on final spousal support matters. When a party is seeking final periodic spousal support, the hearing shall be bifurcated such that a hearing on the issue of freedom from fault shall first be conducted before the Judge, and thereafter if the moving party is found to be free from fault, a Hearing Officer Conference shall be scheduled as soon as the docket permits to determine the amount of final periodic spousal support. If either party timely objects to the Hearing Officer’s Recommendation, the matter shall be fixed before the District Judge as set forth in Section C. If a bifurcated hearing is held, the ruling of the Court on the issue of fault shall be considered an interlocutory decree if the moving party is found free from fault and shall not be a final judgment until there has been a determination setting the amount of the spousal support.
5. SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES MAY RESULT IF ATTORNEYS/LITIGANTS DO NOT COMPLY WITH THE HEARING OFFICER CONFERENCE ORDER: According to Rule 35.1 of Title IV, if a party fails to produce the required items, the Hearing Officer, in order to do substantial justice, may recommend that the party failing to produce the financial information be found in contempt of court with sanctions to be imposed, and/or may recommend that the matter be dismissed without prejudice and/or may recommend that good cause exists to modify the retroactivity of the award, and/or may make temporary recommendations based upon the limited information provided. If the Hearing Officer is unable to make a recommendation based upon the information provided, the Court may set a limited hearing for purposes of fixing temporary child support or spousal support. The temporary order shall be without prejudice and shall not affect claims of retroactivity except for good cause shown.
6. PROCEDURES FOR PRETRIAL STATUS CONFERENCES: Either party may request a pre-trial conference or status conference. It shall be within the Court’s discretion as to whether such conference shall be conducted. If a party desires a pre-trial or status conference, the requesting party shall obtain available dates and times from the judge’s office. Once available dates and times are obtained, the requesting party shall confer with the other party to agree upon a mutually convenient time and the issues to be discussed. The requesting party shall fax a letter to the Judge stating that he has conferred with the opposing party. The letter shall also set forth the date and time of the conference and the issues to be discussed. The judge’s office shall fax a confirmation to all parties. [7. PRIOR TO NOTICING A DEPOSITION, OPPOSING COUNSEL MUST BE CONSULTED: Prior to noticing a deposition, whether of a party or non-party witness, counsel seeking the deposition shall first contact opposing counsel to make a good faith attempt to clear an available date and time. Failure to contact, or make reasonable effort to contact opposing counsel prior to noticing a deposition may be grounds to quash the notice and any subpoena issued in conjunction therewith.
8. TEN DAY NOTICE REQUIRED PRIOR TO TRIAL OF A RULE OR ON THE MERITS: All parties must have actual notice not less than 10 days before trial of a rule or on the merits, unless a shorter period of time is provided by law. This notice requirement does not apply to Hearing Officer Conferences or an expedited hearing on a rule to show cause seeking a mental health evaluation or a drug screen and/or a substance abuse assessment where the notice shall be reasonable.
9. PRIOR TO SCHEDULING TRIAL, OPPOSING COUNSEL MUST BE CONSULTED: A matter may be set for trial by either party, after all issues are joined. Counsel shall not submit a motion to set for trial without first making a good faith attempt to reach a mutual agreement with opposing counsel for the date of trial, and for such scheduling order as the parties may agree upon. In such event where mutual agreement is reached, the proposed trial date and scheduling order shall be submitted to the Court for approval.
10. IF PARTIES CANNOT AGREE TO TRIAL DATE OR SCHEULING ORDER: In the event the parties cannot agree regarding a date for trial and/or the appropriate or necessary scheduling order, either party may submit to the Court a Motion to Set for Trial and Request for Issuance of Scheduling Order. The matter may be set for status conference which, at the judge’s discretion may be conducted by telephone for the purpose of choosing a trial date, determining an appropriate scheduling order for such matters as amendment of pleadings, discovery cut-off, exchange of witness and exhibit lists and such other matters as the Court may determine or require within its discretion.
11. SUMMARY PROCEEDINGS REQUIRING EXTENSIVE TESTIMOMY SHOULD BE SET ON MERITS DOCKET: In the event a matter that may be heard as a summary proceeding on rule day requires, or either party anticipates it shall require, the use of extensive witness testimony and/or introduction of exhibits, either party may request that the matter be set for trial on the Court’s regular merits docket. The determination of whether such matter shall be set for trial in such manner and the issuance of pertinent pre-trial scheduling orders shall be conducted in the same fashion as set forth above.
12. PARTIES ARE REQUIRED TO EXCHANGE WITNESS AND EXHIBIT LISTS IN ANY CASE WHERE WITNESSES ARE EXPECTED TO TESTIFY OR EXHIBITS ARE TO BE INTRODUCED: In any event, in any matter in which witnesses are expected to testify or exhibits introduced, the moving party and/or plaintiff shall provide a witness list and a copy of all exhibits reasonably expected to be introduced into evidence to opposing counsel or unrepresented party at least ten (10) days prior to the scheduled hearing or trial. The responding party and/or defendant shall provide a witness list and a copy of all exhibits reasonably expected to be introduced into evidence to opposing counsel or unrepresented party at least seven (7) days prior to hearing or trial.
13. DIVISIONS ''A", ''B", ''C", ''D", ''E", ''F", ''G", ''I", ''J", ''K" and ''L" REQUIRE A WRITTEN STATEMENT OF SPECIFIC ISSUES TO BE HEARD FIVE (5) DAYS BEFORE TRIAL. If any party files a timely objection to a Hearing Officer Recommendation in a matter allotted to Divisions ''A", ''B", ''C", ''D", ''E", ''F", ''G", ''I", ''J", ''K" and ''L", then the party or parties who object to the Recommendation, or any part thereof, shall provide to the District Judge in whose Division the matter is pending, at least five (5) days prior to the hearing, a written statement of the specific issues that are to be heard. If a party objects to the Recommendation, or any part thereof, is represented by counsel, the statement of the issues shall be signed by said counsel.
14. REQUESTS FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF UNDER R.S. 9:372 OR 9:372.1 SHOULD BE ON UNIFORM ABUSE PREVENTION ORDER FORM: A request for injunctive relief pursuant to R.S. 9:372 or 9:372.1, being incidental to a proceeding for divorce, shall be pled with the divorce and the relief expressly continued or obtained in the divorce decree. Only the relief granted pursuant to R.S. 9:372 shall be submitted on the Uniform Abuse Prevention Order form. Please note that Law Enforcement agencies have been refusing to enforce temporary restraining orders or permanent injunctions unless they are on the Uniform Abuse Prevention Order forms.
15. IF A PARTY IS PARTICIPATING IN A QUALIFIED RETIREMENT OR PENSION PLAN, THAT PARTY MUST PROVIDE THE COURT WITH ALL INFORMATION: It shall be the responsibility of any party who is an employee participant in a benefit plan in which the community possesses an interest to obtain all available forms and other necessary information from the plan administrator which shall be submitted to the Court and to opposing counsel, or the opposing party if unrepresented, so that a qualified domestic relations (QDRO) order can be prepared as directed by the Court.
16. A COMBINED DETAILED DESCRIPTIVE LIST IS REQUIRED AT A PARTITION TRIAL ON THE MERITS. The attorneys shall prepare a combined detailed descriptive list which sets forth all community property claims, reimbursement claims, community obligation claims and separate property claims, as well as the nature of the disputes between the parties, in such a manner so that the Court can make a side by side comparison of each claims. An example of a combined detailed descriptive list is set forth in Appendices 30.0C and 30.0D of Title IV of the Rules for District Courts.