Judicial Assistant: Stephanie Sutton
*NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC:* The Code of Judicial Conduct governing behavior by judges forbids the Judges of the Fifth Judicial Circuit to discuss pending cases with the public. Please do not call the Court expecting to speak with a Judge about any case. The Court is only allowed to consider arguments made in the courtroom and in documents properly filed by actual parties in the case as authorized by law and the Rules of Court. The Court cannot ethically read or consider any other opinions or arguments about the case. Communications that do not meet these legal requirements cannot be forwarded to the Judges.
All counsel are expected to conduct themselves at all times in the manner contemplated by the Professional Code of Conduct. The courtesy of coordinating hearing dates with opposing side(s) should be attempted, and prior to requesting a hearing for purely discretionary matters, such as extensions, discovery, remote testimony or accommodations, counsel are expected to confer with the opposing side(s) to see if an agreement can be reached.
Any question(s) asked by the Judge should be interpreted only as an opportunity for you to instruct or correct the Court about the fact(s), law, or argument(s) raised in that particular hearing. Do not be shy. The court and your client are relying on you to concisely put forth your position within the time reserved.
Getting to the point of your request for a ruling is usually helpful. Domestic (i.e., “family law”) matters, in particular, generally benefit by preparing the final judgment or order you wish the court to enter ahead of the hearing. This helps focus the parties’ and court’s attention on the relevant facts and law. You can expect to be requested to employ such procedure. The goal of every ruling is to correctly apply the applicable law to the facts established. Parties usually do best when focusing on these two (2) aspects of presenting their case.
EMAIL AND WRITTEN CORRESPONDENCE (i.e., ex parte communication)
RARELY, if ever, will the Judge review or respond to emails. Under no circumstances should anyone try to submit evidence, arguments, or otherwise discuss a case with the judge through email or other ex parte communication.
Judge Takac endeavors to set each trial on a specific date requested by the parties. This procedure works best when litigants cooperate to request dates only after they are ready to appear for trial within the reasonable near future. Once a trial date is agreed upon requests to continue the trial will only be granted upon extraordinary circumstances beyond any parties’ control. Mere “stipulations” to continue are not extraordinary circumstances.
All parties headed to trial will be given specific disclosure requirements to meet in order to assure that their intended evidence will be admitted and that there will be no “surprises” that would result in a “mistrial” to further delay concluding the case. Please be sure to comply with the Disclosure Order! You should expect to be allowed to present only the specifically identified evidence (tangible or testimonial) that you have properly disclosed (by service and filing) according to the Court’s applicable Disclosure Order. Usually, within the thirty (30) days after mediation ends in impasse (i.e., without settling all issues between the parties).
Hearings should be scheduled by contacting the Judicial Assistant, Stephanie
Sutton, at 352-742-4285. Long distance calls cannot be returned unless you have a toll-free number. Please call back and thank you for your patience.
To confirm your hearing date, you should email the Judicial Assistant. Only after the Judicial Assistant replies to your email CONFIRMING the hearing date and time the parties have agreed to should you file your Notice of Hearing. Please email the Judicial Assistant the copy of the Notice of Hearing upon filing with the Clerk of the Court, i.e., including the e-filing number, date, and time to firstname.lastname@example.org. Confirmation of cancellations as soon as known to counsel are greatly appreciated. (Preferably by copy of the “notice of cancellation”).
If the Movant has attempted in good faith and has been unsuccessful in coordinating a hearing date and time to have their Motion(s) heard – only then should the Movant include the following statement in the Notice of Hearing to the following effect: “…which date and time has been selected after “opposing party’s” rejection/failure to coordinate from among (the number of alternate dates) over “number of days/weeks/months.
ORDERS AFTER HEARING:
In the event you choose or are asked to submit a “proposed” or “draft” document to the Judge, then please email your proposal in WORD format, 11 pt, Verdana to email@example.com. Unless instructed by the Judge otherwise, your submission is expected to be received by Ms. Sutton, within forty-eight (48) hours of the hearing. Any other documents, such as cover letter, can be in PDF format. Stamped, addressed envelopes must be provided for any party that has not filed a Designation of Email for Electronic Service.
SUBMITTING ORDERS WITHOUT HEARING:
Requested orders that are based upon “stipulation” or other “agreement” are most effectively rendered by placing the “stipulation” or “agreement” in the record, as opposed to an ex parte email or written correspondence to the Judge’s office. In other words, if a party agrees to your relief, state so in the motion itself or separately file that opposing party’s acknowledgement of there being no objection. This is the best way to avoid unnecessary hearings.
REMOTE APPEARANCE HEARINGS (a/k/a “zoom”; telephone; etc.)
Remote appearances (“zoom” or telephone) are, generally, discouraged for all evidentiary matters. They are best arranged with agreement, when the hearing is initially coordinated. All requests should, first, confer with opposing counsel/party. A motion, not email, is required to subsequently obtain “zoom” or telephonic appearance for a duly noticed hearing not coordinated in open Court with the Judge present. The proponent of any remote appearance will be required to make such arrangement available to all parties. Every party seeking to avail themselves of “zoom” or telephone appearance will bear the burden/prejudice/risk caused by such facility. E.g., inability to examine evidence or document presented to the Court; a disconnect of the telephone transmission; internet link; etc.
ANY REMOTE ACCOMMODATION SOUGHT FOR AN INDIVIDUAL’S APPEARANCE (attorney or witness) where other individuals will be present in the Courthouse requires the proponent of such remote appearance to make all accommodations necessary to make the appearance happen. E.g., if you want a witness to appear via “zoom,” bring your laptop, send the “zoom” link. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE WILL THE COURT ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FAILURE OF ANY TECHNOLOGY that a party has sought to employ. That is why evidentiary matters are designed and expected to occur in person.
In order to avail oneself of an opportunity to appear remotely (e.g., via telephone, internet “zoom” technology) the party requesting such accommodation must:
- Contact all other parties to ascertain whether they object, would similarly like to appear, or simply have no objection to your requested remote attendance.
- Secure permission from the Judicial Assistant when initially coordinating the hearing. (Otherwise, a motion and order will be required. Late/last minute requests are disfavored and generally will not be allowed).
- Telephone appearances must be arranged to “conference” all attending prior to calling the Judicial Assistant for connection to Judge Takac.
- Notice of ZOOM hearings should not have any zoom information in the body of the Notice. You should list one (1) contact email for your office and state “the contact email listed is responsible for forwarding the zoom invitation to all parties.” Zoom invitations are sent approximately one (1) week prior to the scheduled hearing date.
- “NOTICE OF HEARINGS” should include one (1) contact email for the party filing the “Notice.” That email address is the address where the Judicial Assistant will send the “zoom” invitation approximately one (1) week prior to the scheduled matter. A copy of the notice should be emailed to the Judicial Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- IT IS THEN THE NOTICING PARTY’S (i.e., contact email) RESPONSIBILITY TO FORWARD, AND CERTIFY DOING SO, THE ZOOM INVIATION TO ALL PARTIES/ENTITIES ENTITLED TO NOTICE OF THE PROCEEDING(S), such as all entities of record via filed “Notice of Appearance.”
Example: The zoom invitation will be sent to [“email address provided”] approximately one (1) week prior to the hearing. That contact email addressee is then responsible for forwarding the zoom invitation to all parties for the hearing.
- Again, anyone appearing through remote accommodation BEARS ALL RISKS AND ASSUMES ALL RISKS ASSOCIATED with the remote appearance, including failure of the technology accommodating such appearance. The court cannot guarantee and will not accept responsibility for the “success” of remote appearance/connection(s).
Parties need not wait to receive the “zoom” invitation to file and serve their “Notice.” UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE ACTUAL “ZOOM” LINK APPEAR ON THE “NOTICE” BEING FILED WITH THE CLERK. This rule is designed to limit “unintended appearances” by non-parties and other “zoom marauders.”
*”Zoom” proceedings cannot, obviously, be coordinated where a party entitled to appear does not possess internet capabilities, or where parties fail to coordinate receipt of evidence in advance.
If you would like to submit documents (e.g., motions, exhibits, evidence, etc.) for the Judge to have during your hearing, hard copies (i.e., paper) are preferred. U.S. mail should be addressed to 550 West Main Street, Tavares, FL 32778. Federal Express, UPS, or other private shipping services for hand delivery should be directed to 313 South Bloxham Avenue, Tavares, FL 32778. Hand deliveries in sealed envelopes, boxes, etc., and the like ARE NOT ACCEPTED IN THE JUDGE’S SUITE as security officers are instructed to prevent their entry into the building. If you have questions about your intended delivery, please contact Ms. Sutton at the number above. Please note that emails will not be printed and therefore, are not a substitute for hard copy delivery.