Local Rules of Practice and Decorum
Rules of the Courtroom
- Persons should be appropriately dressed. Shorts, tank tops, jogging/sweat suits, and sleeveless shirts are not permitted in the Courtroom;
- No reading of newspapers, magazines, or other items except official papers;
- No bringing food, bottles, papercups, or beverage containers into the Courtroom;
- No propping of feet on tables, chairs, or benches;
- No making noise or talking which interferes with the Court procedure;
- No smoking;
- Before entering a Courtroom where Court is in session, a person should first remove overcoat, hat, etc.;
- No person should, by any facial expression, shaking of the head, or any other conduct, exhibit approval or disapproval of any testimony elicited or any statement or transaction which has occurred in the Courtroom.
- The lawyers, the Judge, and all of the officers of the court shall be prompt at all sessions and in the dispatch of all court business.
- All lawyers and court officials shall wear coats or robe when the court is hearing proceedings in the courtroom, provided however, that Judicial discretion may be exercised otherwise in special situations.
- In addressing the judge, the lawyers shall at all times rise and remain standing and address the Judge from their position at the counsel table.
- Lawyers shall never lean on the bench or engage the Judge in a confidential manner, except by permission or at the request of the Judge.
- Lawyers shall advise their clients and witnesses of proper courtroom decorum and seek their full cooperation therewith. This will prevent possible embarrassment to the Judges as well as the lawyers and laymen.
- During trial, attorneys should not exhibit familiarity with witnesses, jurors, or opposing counsel and, to this end, the use of the first names should be avoided. During jury argument no attorney should ever address a juror individually or by name.
- Odd numbered criminal cases and a fourth of domestic relations cases (divorces, adoptions, contempt, change of conditions and custody) shall be filed in the 27th District Court.
- All Department of Human Resource cases, half of all civil cases, and a fourth of domestic relations cases (divorces, adoptions, contempt, change of conditions and custody) shall be filed in the 146th District Court.
- All juvenile cases, all reciprocals, all judgment nisi, all tax suits, half of all other civil cases and a fourth of domestic relations cases (divorces, adoptions, contempt, change of conditions and custody) shall be filed in the 169th District Court.
- Even numbered criminal cases and fourth of domestic relations cases (divorces, adoptions, contempt, change of conditions and custody) shall be filed in the 264th District Court.
- Every garnishment suit shall be assigned to the court in which the original suit is pending, and if the principal suit is transferred to another court the garnishment shall be transferred likewise.
- Every suit of proceeding, in the nature of a bill of review or otherwise, seeking to attack, avoid, or set aside any judgment, order or decree of a District Court of Bell County, shall be assigned to the court in which such judgment, order, or decree was rendered.
- Every motion for consideration or joint hearing Rule 174A, TRCP, shall be filed in the court in which the first case filed is pending, and if such motion is granted, shall be transferred to the court in which the first case is pending.
- Except in emergencies when the District Clerk's office is not open for business, no application for immediate or temporary relief shall be presented to a Judge until the case has been filed.
- All motions to sever will be controlled by the provision of Rule 41, and 174, Texas Rule of Civil Procedures, and such rules will be strictly construed. No severance will be granted without notice and an opportunity for a hearing having been given to all parties.
Procedure in Civil Cases
- Special exception shall be considered waived when not timely filed and presented.
- It is the intention of the courts of Bell County to make full utilization of the pre-trial rules contained in Rule 166, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and this rule will be strictly conformed to.
- When counsel for either party fails to appear at the pre-trial after notice to appear, the court may
- Rule on all motions and exceptions in absence of such counsel.
- Declare any motions or exceptions of such absent party waived.
- Advance or delay the trial setting according to the convenience of the counsel present.
- Pass and reset the pretrial.
- Counsel at pre-trial shall either be the attorney who expects to try the case, or shall be familiar with the case and as fully authorized to state his party's position on the law and facts, make stipulations and enter into settlement negotiations as trial counsel.
- Civil cases may be set for trial on the merits only after appearance has been made or after appearance day has passed as to all party's position on the law and facts, make stipulations and enter into settlement negotiations as trial counsel. If the court finds counsel is not qualified, the court may consider that no counsel has appeared and may take any of the procedures provided.
- Except by mutual agreement between all counsel and the court, no jury setting will be made within a period of thirty (30) days after the date of the request for a setting.
- Cases on the jury docket shall be set on Monday of a jury week, and shall be subject to trial at any time during the week. Jury docket cases shall take priority on those weeks designated for that purpose.
- Upon receipt of a request, a setting will be made and notice mailed to all attorney's.
- If any attorney or party objects to the particular setting, written notice of such objection stating the reasons therefore should be delivered to the court and all opposing counsel within (10) days. Failure to timely file objection to any setting will be taken as a consent to such a setting, and the setting will become a firm setting at the end of such ten (10) day period.
- Attorneys are encouraged to communicate with opposing counsel before requesting the setting of a case (or at the time of objection to a setting) in an effort to agree upon a setting date. All agreed settings will be treated as firm settings from the time notice of same is given to the court.
- All objections to settings that are not disposed of by agreement of counsel will be heard by the presiding Judge at 9:00 a.m. of the Friday following the date such objection is filed.
- On Wednesday morning before the trial setting for the following week, it shall be the duty of each counsel:
To communicate with the court in person or by telephone and announce ready or not ready. If an announcement of not ready is to be made, a motion for continuance must be filed, such motion will be heard on the following Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. unless opposing counsel advised the court that no contest will be made to the motion.
- If counsel does not communicate with the court as herein above indicated, the court may treat such failure as any one of the following:
- An announcement of ready.
- An indication of no contest to any opponents motion for continuance or other preliminary relief, or
- Where the case has been on file for more than eighteen (18) months, and/or has been set two (2) or more times previously without going to trial, on motion of an opposing party, the case may be dismissed for want of prosecution.
- A case may be dismissed for want of prosecution for any of the following reasons:
- Failure of the plaintiff to request a setting or take other appropriate action to prepare the case for trial after receipt of written notice from the clerk that the case has been pending for twelve (12) months or more.
- The procedures provided by Rule 165A, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, effective February 01, 1973, are adopted and will be compiled with in all dismissals for want of prosecution.
- In order to facilitate the hearing of non-contested and ex-parte matters with minimum interference with other judicial business, counsel is requested; whenever testimony is to be heard on such a matter, to contact the docket clerk in advance if possible and obtain a setting for a convenient time.
- When it is necessary for the court to appoint a guardian-ad-litem for minor, incompetent parties, or an attorney-ad-litem for absent parties, or an investigator in adoption cases, the court will appoint an independent person provided the court may appoint an attorney who is already counsel of record for one of the parties if the court finds that no conflict of interest or other circumstances exist which would prevent such attorney from provided adequate representation for such minor, incompetent or absent parties.
- No attorney of record shall be permitted to withdraw from any case without presenting a motion, and obtaining from the court an order granting leave to withdraw.
Such motion shall be accompanied by the clients written consent to such withdrawal or a certificate by another lawyer that he has been employed to represent the client in the case, or a copy of such motion shall be mailed to the client at his last known address, with a letter advising that the motion will be presented to the court on or after a certain hour, not less than four (4) days after mailing the letter, and that any objection to such withdrawal should be made to the court in writing before such time and a copy of such letter shall be attached to such motion. A copy of such motion shall be mailed to opposing counsel. Such leave may be denied where the motion is presented so near the trial date as to require delay of the trial. After leave is granted, the withdrawing attorney shall send the client's letter by certified mail notifying him of the withdrawal, stating any settings for trial or otherwise and advising him to secure other counsel, and shall send a copy of such letter to opposing counsel and the clerk of the court.
- No divorce will be granted without first having a properly filled out report to the Department of Vital Statistics.
- All criminal cases will be given an arraignment date at which time the attorney may waive arraignment and make official appearance in the case in writing prior to the arraignment date and need not be present. If arraignment is not waived and no attorney is officially of record in the case, the defendant needs to be present with his attorney if he has one.
- At the same time the notices are sent on the arraignment date, there will also be notice as to a pre-trial date and a trial week. The cases will be distinguished by jail cases and non-jail cases as of the time of the indictment. The pre-trial also serves as a docket call. All pre-trial motions should be filed within ten (10) days of pre-trial, unless good cause is shown. Anyone who files a pre-trial motion must give a copy to opposing counsel.
- The state and defense counsel must be present at the pre-trial/docket call along with the defendant.
- All attorneys are required to make announcement at the pre-trial/docket call on the cases where they have made an appearance.
- No attorney will be allowed to withdraw from a case without there first being at the hearing to determine the reason and if the motion is granted so the defendant can fully be advised of his rights.
- Anyone who wishes the court to consider probation, if the court is to assess punishment, is encouraged to have his client report to the probation department at least two weeks prior to the hearing date and then to return for a follow-up interview on the date of the hearing, however, should your client desire not to answer any of the questions until after the plea of guilty has been entered you may then make application with the probation department on the date that the plea has been entered and after he has been found guilty and punishment will be reset approximately two weeks from that date.
- No cases will be continued without a written motion for continuance, unless the attorneys for both sides agree to a continuance and then only upon receiving a resetting date from the court coordinator or the court.
- Examination of the witnesses should normally be made from counsel table. If the witness is to be examined about certain physical evidence, the counsel may approach the witness upon asking and receiving permission from the court - alternatively, the witness may be examined from the lectern if counsel so desires.
- No physical evidence is to be handed to the jury or picked up from the jury except by the bailiff. No attorney is to hand anything to the jury - he may ask permission of the court to allow the jury to see the evidence and then hand it to the bailiff for presentment to the jury - if evidence tables are provided in the courtroom then all exhibits admitted into evidence should be deposited on the table and remain there except when needed for purposes of examination of a witness.
- Jury arguments are to be conducted from the lectern and the attorney should refrain from walking about in front of the jury and sitting on tables, etc.