Chief Judge Leonard Strand’s Information and Preferences

Address: 320 Sixth Street, Room 315, Sioux City, IA 51101
Phone: 712-233-3921
Fax: 712-233-3918

Judicial Assistant:

Donaline Schmith
Phone: 712-233-3921
Fax: 712-233-3918

Law Clerks:

Jessica Donels
Phone: 712-233-3870
Fax: 712-233-3918

Matt Winter
Phone: 712-233-3864
Fax: 712-233-3918

Holli Andresen
Phone: 712-233-3855
Fax: 712-233-3918

Elizabeth Heffernan
Phone: 712-233-3844
Fax: 712-233-3918

Court Reporter:

Shelly Semmler
Phone: 712-233-3846

1. If I need to communicate with the court, how should I proceed?

Chief Judge Strand accepts all forms of communications at the addresses and numbers shown above. Ex parte communications are permitted only when legally and ethically appropriate. When emailing Chief Judge Strand, copy in his judicial assistant along with all counsel of record and any unrepresented parties (unless the message is a permissible ex parte communication).

2. How can I determine the status of a pending motion?

Contact Chief Judge Strand’s judicial assistant by telephone or email.

3. If I need a trial or hearing continued, whom should I contact, and do I need to file a written motion?

If the request is on short notice, you should call the judge’s judicial assistant and try to simultaneously file a written motion; otherwise, you should file a written motion.

4. If I need to have a motion set for hearing or oral arguments, what procedure should I follow?

According to Local Rule 7(c), a motion will be decided without oral argument unless the court orders otherwise. A request for oral argument must be noted separately in both the caption and the conclusion of the motion or resistance to the motion, and must be supported by a showing of good cause. In addition, Chief Judge Strand’s standard trial-setting order in criminal cases states the required showings that must be made before a request for an evidentiary hearing will be granted on non-trial related motions.

5. How can I get an expedited ruling or hearing?

For any matter on which an expedited ruling or hearing is necessary, you should follow Local Rule 7(j).

To comply with this rule, you should send an email message to Chief Judge Strand and his judicial assistant with a copy of the pleading or motion at issue. To schedule an expedited hearing, you should call Chief Judge Strand’s judicial assistant.

6. What do I have to do to get a settlement conference scheduled? Who will conduct the settlement conference? What are the requirements?

The court’s primary ADR procedure is private mediation. In addition, Chief Judge Strand disfavors judicial involvement in the settlement process. Thus, the parties are encouraged to arrange for private mediation if they believe it would be beneficial to involve a neutral party in their settlement negotiations. Having said all of this, the parties do have the option of requesting a settlement conference, which would be conducted by a United States Magistrate Judge. Barring extraordinary circumstances, the court will agree to conduct such a conference only if all parties agree to participate. To explore this opportunity, the parties should contact the chambers of the United States Magistrate Judge to whom the case has been referred. If the court agrees to conduct a settlement conference, the requirements for participation will be described in the order scheduling that conference.

7. How do I get a trial date? Are trial dates firm?

Generally, each case will be assigned a firm trial date shortly after the scheduling order is filed. If, for some reason, a trial date is not assigned to a case, or if the trial is continued and no new date has been set, you should contact Chief Judge Strand’s judicial assistant.

8. Are there any special procedures for marking trial or hearing exhibits?

Yes. Those procedures are set out in the trial setting order.

9. Is there anything particular that I should or should not do when I file a motion?

You should comply with Local Rules 7, 15, 37, 56 and Local Criminal Rules 12 and 47 that deal generally or specifically with particular motions. Take note that the court strictly enforces the rules that require communications with opposing counsel in advance of filing most types of motions. See Local Rules 7(k) and 37(a). A motion that fails to comply with those rules will almost surely be denied.

With regard to motions for summary judgment, you should review Local Rule 56 carefully and comply with all applicable requirements. While they may seem technical and/or unnecessary, Chief Judge Strand has found compliance to be extremely useful in highlighting the issues and expediting the court’s consideration of summary judgment motions. Noncompliance may result in adverse consequences. Parties should take particular care to follow the directions set forth in Local Rule 56(e), concerning summary judgment appendices. As the rule explains, appendices should be page-numbered sequentially, like an appellate appendix, and citations to an appendix should be to the appropriate appendix page number(s).

10. How does the court view motions to reconsider?

A motion to reconsider should be reserved for situations in which it is obvious that either an error or a significant new development has occurred. For example, if an order indicates that a motion was unresisted, when a timely resistance had been filed, it would be appropriate to file a motion to reconsider to give the court the opportunity to correct the error. Likewise, if new binding authority is issued soon after an order is filed, and that authority appears to affect the court’s analysis, a motion to reconsider the order would be expected. However, a motion to reconsider that simply repeats previously-advanced arguments is likely to be denied without explanation. In any event, Chief Judge Strand will review any motion to reconsider and give it due consideration. It is important to note, however, that the rules of procedure make no specific provision for a motion to reconsider. Parties should be careful that they do not waive any jurisdictional time requirements by waiting for a ruling on a motion to reconsider.

11. What trial schedule is generally used?

On the first day of a jury trial, Chief Judge Strand follows a traditional schedule. Trial commences at 9:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm, with a lunch break, a short morning recess and a short afternoon recess. All other trial days will begin at 8:30 am and end at 2:30 pm, with no lunch break but with two twenty-minute recesses, one in the morning and one early in the afternoon. Any requests for modifications to this schedule should be made no later than the final pretrial conference.

12. What is the court’s view on sidebars?

Chief Judge Strand strongly discourages sidebars. Counsel should work with the court to anticipate issues and problems that might arise in trial and resolve them either before the trial day starts or at the conclusion of the trial day. Sidebars are reserved for the most unusual emergency type problems that may arise during trial.

13. How does the court want jury instructions submitted?

Please refer to the trial setting order.

14. Does the court use preliminary jury instructions?

Chief Judge Strand typically gives nearly all instructions to the jury (including instructions concerning elements and damages) before opening statements, with only a few instructions (such as instructions about deliberations) being reserved until the end of the case.

15. Will the court conduct voir dire itself or will counsel be allowed to participate?

Chief Judge Strand will conduct a preliminary voir dire to introduce the case and cover the basic, traditional issues that bear on the prospective jurors’ qualifications to serve. In a typical case, this will take approximately 30 minutes. Each party will then be permitted at least an additional 30 minutes to conduct additional voir dire. More time may be allowed when there is good cause and a specific request is made. Chief Judge Strand’s Voir Dire Instructions are referenced in his trial setting orders.

16. Are there any special requirements for the conduct of attorneys during trials or hearings?

Chief Judge Strand expects all attorneys to be well-prepared, well-organized and act in a courteous and professional manner. Attorneys are expected to be in the courtroom and ready to proceed at the scheduled starting time. Attorneys (and their clients) are free to have bottled water at counsel table.

Chief Judge Strand has no preference as to whether attorneys stand or sit when addressing the court or examining witnesses. However, attorneys should stand when addressing the jury. In addition, because all proceedings in the courtroom are recorded digitally, either in lieu of or in addition to being reported by a certified court report, all attorneys and witnesses must be near a microphone when speaking. Microphones are located at counsel table, the witness stand and the lectern. Portable wireless microphones are also available if, for example, an attorney wishes to make an opening statement or closing argument without standing at the lectern.

An attorney should ask permission before approaching the witness with an exhibit. Depending on the nature of the proceeding, the court may advise counsel that it is no longer necessary to ask permission each time. After an attorney has finished asking questions of a witness concerning an exhibit, he or she should immediately return to counsel table. Attorneys will not be permitted to act in a manner that might physically intimidate a witness during questioning.

A party intending to use a deposition during a trial should carefully follow the procedures set out in the trial setting order.

The courtrooms in this district are equipped with technology, including evidence presentation hardware and software, equipment for presentation of audio and video evidence in various formats and connections for an attorney’s own presentation technology. Any attorney intending to utilize the court’s technology should become familiar with the operation of the equipment before trial or a hearing. You may contact the Clerk’s Office at 712-233-3900 (Sioux City) or 319-286-2300 (Cedar Rapids) to request a training session on courtroom technology or to test connectivity with your own hardware or software. Parties are expected to be familiar with the operation of all applicable technology before the proceeding begins. Chief Judge Strand will not permit significant delays caused by a failure to test, or obtain training about, technology.

17. If a defendant’s friends or family members want to submit character letters before a sentencing hearing or revocation hearing, how should they do so?

While Chief Judge Strand welcomes such materials, they must be submitted through defense counsel as exhibits to ensure that they are properly part of the record. Chief Judge Strand will not read or consider character letters sent to his chambers directly (via email, U.S. Mail or otherwise). See Public Administrative Order 17-AO-0005-P.