How to avoid a headache with federal pretrial statements

 In Legal Writing

The Western District’s Local Rule 16 requires both parties to submit a “pretrial statement” that is essentially a more rigorous joint statement of evidence that Washington State courts require.  A copy of the local rules can be found here: http://www.wawd.uscourts.gov/sites/wawd/files/LocalCivilRules1-31-2014.pdf.  Both parties must submit one to each other and then create a “pretrial order” from the two submissions.

LCR 16(h) requires a plaintiff’s pretrial statement to contain the following: (1) federal jurisdiction; (2) which claims for relief plaintiff intends to pursue at trial, stated in summary fashion; (3) relevant facts about which plaintiff asserts there is no dispute and which plaintiff is prepared to admit; (4) issues of law; (5) names and address of all witnesses who might be called to testify and the general nature of the expected testimony; and (6) a list of exhibits which will be offered by plaintiff at the time of trial, except exhibits to be used for impeachment only.  A plaintiff must submit this pretrial statement 30 days before the date for filing the proposed pretrial order, which is important to remember because this deadline is not given to you in the case schedule order.

As you can see, the pretrial statement is not a simple feat.  The good news is that the defendant’s pretrial statement is also rigorous, and the defendants will in my experience agree to waive a portion of the rule in the joint status report and discovery plan.  If the parties forget about dispensing with the rule in their joint status report, they may always later move the court to waive pretrial statements.  The motion is very simple, and here is an example of one we successfully ran with Judge Ronald Leighton:

COMES NOW Plaintiffs, by and through their undersigned attorneys, and Defendant, by and through its undersigned attorneys, and hereby stipulate and move the Court to dispense with those portions of LCR 16 related to the plaintiffs’ and defendant’s respective pretrial statements, except those subparts requiring the parties to (1) exchange witness and exhibit lists, (2) promptly provide a copy of the exhibits, and (3) file witness and exhibit lists as previously ordered by January 17, 2014.

The bottom line is to read rule LCR 16 at the beginning of every federal case.  In fact, it’s good to thumb through all of the local rules because they explain important procedures and deadlines that federal courts are very serious about.

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