Room 313, 320 Sixth Street, Sioux City, IA 51101
Mailing address: P.O. Box 838, Sioux City, IA 51102-0838
Law Clerk/Judicial Assistant:
Jennifer A. Gill
Robert Johnson: 712-233-3853
Roger Mastalir: 712-233-3854
Will Blackton: 712-233-3855
Shelly Semmler: 712-233-3846
1. If I need to communicate with the court, how should I proceed?
a) written? Yes, address above.
b) fax? Yes, see above.
c) e-mail? Yes, see above.
d) oral? Yes.
e) ex parte? Only for scheduling or procedural questions, or for matters that may be traditionally handled ex parte, such as requests for temporary restraining orders and Criminal Justice Act matters.
2. How can I determine the status of a pending motion?
Call the judge’s judicial assistant, Jennifer, at 712-233-3909.
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, Jennifer, at 712-233-3909, and try to simultaneously file a written motion with fax copies to the court and counsel; 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, Section IV(A) of the Order Setting Jury Trial 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) which states, in part:
If expedited relief is requested in a pleading or motion, the caption of the document must include a clear indication that expedited relief is being requested. At the time such a pleading or motion is filed, counsel must alert the assigned federal judge immediately that the pleading or motion has been filed and that expedited relief is being requested.
To schedule the expedited hearing, you should call the judge’s judicial assistant, Jennifer, at 712-233-3909.
6. What do I have to do to get a settlement conference scheduled? Who will conduct the settlement conference? What are the requirements?
To schedule a settlement conference, you should contact U.S. Magistrate Leonard T. Strand at 712-233-3921. Except under unusual circumstances, the court will not conduct a settlement conference unless all parties agree to participate. Judge Strand's form Settlement Conference Order is attached.
7. How do I get a trial date? Are trial dates firm?
Generally, each case will be assigned a FIRM trial date on a two-week trailing calendar when 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 the judge’s judicial assistant, Jennifer, at 712-233-3909, and Judge Bennett will set a trial date.
8. Are there any special procedures for marking trial or hearing exhibits?
Yes. Those procedures are set out in Section VIII of the Order Setting Jury Trial In Criminal Cases, Section VI of the Order Setting Jury Trial in Civil Cases, Section VI of the Order Setting Bench Trial, Local Rules 16.1 and 83.6, and Local Criminal Rule 57.3.
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, and Local Criminal Rule 47 that deal with motions. If you refer to depositions or exhibits in a motion, you should only reference and attach the relevant parts of the deposition or exhibit. Judge Bennett does not want a large quantity of irrelevant material sent to the court along with a motion. Deposition excerpts must clearly indicate the deponent and the questioner and whether the excerpt is from direct examination, cross-examination, or redirect examination, as indicated in Local Rule 56(e).
10. How does the court view motions to reconsider?
Judge Bennett will review any motion to reconsider and, if it raises new matters, cites to new authorities or provides new rationale, the court will give it due consideration. However, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure make no specific provision for a motion to reconsider, and parties should be careful that they do not waive any jurisdictional time requirement by waiting for a ruling on a motion to reconsider.
11. Do we have to comply with all the requirements of the pretrial order?
Yes. Judge Bennett has found that full compliance with the final pretrial order makes for a smooth, well-organized and efficient trial.
12. What trial schedule is generally used?
Most trials run from 8:30am - 2:30pm, with no lunch break. There are two twenty minute recesses, one in the morning and one early in the afternoon. Judge Bennett frequently meets with the lawyers both before the trial day and at the conclusion of the trial day to anticipate and resolve trial-related issues and problems.
13. What is the court’s view on sidebars?
Judge Bennett strongly discourages sidebars. Judge Bennett works very hard to anticipate issues and problems that 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.
14. Does the court have Real Time court reporting and is it available to the lawyers?
The court has Real Time court reporting. It is available to the lawyers on a case by case basis. Arrangements need to be made with the court reporter. For Central and Western division cases, the court reporter is Shelly Semmler. Her telephone number is 712-233-3846. For Cedar Rapids and Eastern Division cases, the court reporter is Patrice Murray. Her telephone number is 319-286-2338.
15. How does the court want jury instructions submitted?
Section V of the Order Setting Jury Trial In Criminal Cases, Section VII(2) of the Order Setting Jury Trial in Civil Cases, and Local Rule 51 set out the requirements for submission of jury instructions.
16. Does the court use preliminary jury instructions?
In lengthy or complex cases, civil or criminal, the court will use a relatively standard set of preliminary jury instructions as well as final jury instructions. When preliminary jury instructions are used, and especially where there is agreement between the parties, the court prefers to give one or more preliminary jury instructions on the elements of the various causes of action in civil cases and counts in criminal cases. However, the court’s recent practice, in all but the most lengthy or complicated cases, has been to use a unified, “short set” of jury instructions, in which all elements and other instructions are read to the jury before opening statements, and only instructions on deliberations are reserved until after the parties’ closing arguments. Examples of jury instructions Judge Bennett has used in recent cases, both “long sets” with preliminary and final instructions and “short sets,” can be found on this website under the Jury Instructions link in Jury Instructions Used in Trials.
17. Will the court conduct voir dire itself or will counsel be allowed to participate?
The court will conduct extensive voir dire, based in part upon the written questions submitted by the parties at the final pretrial conference. However, each party will be permitted at least an additional one-half hour for voir dire (more in some cases where there is good cause and it is specifically requested). Judge Bennett’s Voir Dire Instructions are referenced in his trial setting orders.
18. Are there any special requirements for the conduct of attorneys during trials or hearings?
Judge Bennett expects attorneys to be well-prepared, well-organized and act in a courteous and professional manner. Attorneys are expected to be timely for all hearings and trial days.
The general custom in Iowa is for attorneys to question witnesses while seated at counsel table. However, the parties may question witnesses while standing or seated at counsel table, or while standing at the lectern.
Attorneys may approach witnesses to discuss exhibits without first asking permission of the court. However, it is better protocol for an attorney to ask permission the first time he or she wants to approach a witness with an exhibit. 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.
Attorneys and their clients should stand when the jury enters or leaves the courtroom. Attorneys should also stand when they address the court or the jury. Attorneys may stand in front of the jury during opening statements and closing arguments, or, if they prefer, they may use the lectern.
A party intending to use a deposition during a trial should carefully follow the procedures set out in section XI of Trial setting order form - Jury Trial and section X of Trial setting order form - Bench Trial.
Parties intending to bring in their own technological equipment should also contact the Clerk’s office before trial to make certain that the proper outlets and hookups are available. Parties are expected to be familiar with the operation of their own equipment before trial.
Attorneys are encouraged to use the technological equipment available in the courtroom. This equipment includes various kinds of evidence presentation hardware and software for “hard copy” and electronic format documentary evidence, equipment for presentation of audio and video evidence in various formats, and connections for an attorney’s own presentation technology. However, any attorney using the court’s equipment 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 to request a training session on courtroom technology or to test connectivity with your own hardware or software.
Attorneys should be careful not to waste the time of the court or the jury trying to operate equipment with which the attorney is unfamiliar.
If an attorney for either party wishes to request the exclusion of witnesses during a hearing or trial, exclusion should be requested at the beginning of the hearing or trial. In the absence of such a request, witnesses will not be excluded from hearings or trials.
Judge Bennett's standard forms can be found by clicking here.
Sample Jury Instructions can be found on this website under the Jury Instructions link in Jury Instructions Used in Trials.