Judge Hopkins Policies and Procedures

JEFFERY P. HOPKINS, CHIEF JUDGE
221 East Fourth Street, Atrium Two Suite 800
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
(513) 684-2852

 

NOTICE REGARDING E-MAIL NOTIFICATIONS
   
The procedures outlined herein are subject to changes and/or updates at any time.

Ex parte Communications
Counsel is reminded that Court staff are unable, both legally and ethically, to engage in unilateral, or ex parte, communications with creditors or debtors, and/or provide advice to parties regarding their rights, with respect to a bankruptcy case or proceeding. It is inappropriate and considered highly unethical.

The Court does not accept, for filing, documents sent to chambers via either fax or e-mail or letter. Documents must be filed through the ECF system.

Motion Practice
Matters requiring hearing are set, in ordinary course, by the Courtroom Deputy. When a response, objection or answer, etc. needs to be filed beyond the time frame or required date, it is necessary to file a motion for leave to file out of time. Follow the motion practice outlined in Local Bankruptcy Rule 9013-1 (available on the Court's website – www.ohsb.uscourts.gov).
Refer to General Order #12 for a list of motions/applications not requiring the 21-day notice.

Generally
Trials are set on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Relief from stay dockets are usually set on Monday mornings and Friday mornings. Chapter 13 Confirmation dockets are usually set on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Chapter 13 Mega dockets (consisting of hearings on motions to dismiss, motions to suspend/modify, objections to claims, relief from stay, etc.), are usually set on the fourth Thursday of the month. Other matters are scheduled as the Court's calendar permits.

Expedited hearings
A motion for expedited hearing must be filed as a separate motion. Follow the procedure outlined in Local Bankruptcy Rule 9073-1. Contact the Courtroom Deputy or Law Clerk for a date and include the date in the order to be uploaded. If the motion is granted, the order will require movant to serve the order and certify service of the order.

Motions to reduce response time
The following practice is preferred by this Court – File the motion to reduce the response time, without filing or serving the underlying substantive motion. Attach the underlying motion as an exhibit to the motion to expedite or reduce time. If the motion is granted, movant should then file and serve the underlying substantive motion with a copy of the docketed order reducing response time and file a certificate of service certifying service and the method by which service was provided.

Motions to continue automatic stay pursuant to § 362(c)(3)(B)
File the motion to continue automatic stay as well as a motion to expedite the hearing and shorten notice period. The Court issues its own order setting the appropriate dates and requiring service, by the attorney for the debtor, of the order setting the expedited hearing. After the filing of the appropriate certificate of service of the order setting expedited hearing and the expiration of the objection period, the Court will review the matter and may grant the motion without hearing.

Continuances
If it becomes necessary to request a continuance, counsel should first contact opposing counsel and solicit his/her agreement. A motion for continuance should be filed, even if the parties agree, and should indicate whether or not opposing counsel has agreed to the requested continuance and should state the reason for the continuance. Upload an order (preferably an agreed order) granting the continuance leaving blanks for the date of the continued hearing. Counsel should keep in mind, however, that agreement of opposing counsel does not guarantee that a continuance will be granted. Regarding hearings on motions for relief from stay, no continuances will be granted at the debtor's request without an agreed order.

Motions for Relief from Stay
Chapter 7, 11 and 13 Cases Involving Individual Debtors

The Court will schedule hearings on motions for relief from stay in chapter 7, 11 and 13 cases involving individual debtors only after a response, objection or motion contra is filed. The hearing will be scheduled for a date not more than 60 days after the filing of the motion. If no response, objection or motion contra to the motion for relief from the automatic stay is filed, no hearing will be scheduled and the relief requested by the motion may be granted without further notice.
 
Chapter 12 Cases and Non Individual Chapter 7 and 11 Cases
In chapter 12 cases and chapter 7 and 11 cases where the debtor is not an individual, the Court will schedule hearings on motions for relief from stay to be held within 30 days of the filing of a motion. If no timely response to the motion is filed, the hearing may be vacated and the relief requested by the motion may be granted without further notice.
 
Agreed Motions for Relief from Stay
If  all  parties  (including  the  Chapter  7  Trustee  or  standing  Chapter  13  Trustee)  are  in agreement, an agreed order on relief from stay may be submitted without the necessity of filing a motion for relief from stay.
 
Default Orders
Default orders for relief from stay shall not contain factual findings or conclusions of law 
relating to the standing of the moving party to enforce the loan documents or the validity or priority of the moving party’s lien position.
 
Telephonic Appearances

Telephonic appearances are NOT permitted in evidentiary matters. Requests to appear at a hearing by telephone should be made to the Courtroom Deputy at least two business days prior to the hearing. Cell phone usage will NOT be permitted. Since telephonic appearances are connected to the courtroom's speaker system and the electronic recording equipment, it is necessary that attorneys identify themselves for the record every time he/she speaks.

Settlements and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Counsel should not wait until the hearing date to begin settlement negotiations. If a matter is settled, withdrawn, etc., parties should notify the Court promptly by e-mail at J_Hopkins_Orders@ohsb.uscourts.gov. This Court maintains an active policy of referring matters that have the potential to settle to one of the other judges on the Court as a mechanism of alternative dispute resolution. When this occurs, the Court generally issues an order requiring that parties be in attendance at conferences and that the attorneys submit memoranda. See Local Bankruptcy Rule 9019-2.

Chapter 13 Confirmation and Mega Dockets
The Court actively encourages parties to seek alternative resolutions to their disputes rather than resorting to the Court’s judgment.  In an effort to facilitate consensual resolutions and to reduce the dockets to matters that require adjudication, the Court has instituted the following procedures to report resolutions and withdrawals prior to hearings and to make requests to reschedule hearings.

     I. Agreed Resolutions or Withdrawals:
 
Parties who have consensually resolved a matter on the Confirmation or Mega Docket may report such agreement to chambers by uploading an agreed order and reporting the resolution via e-mail at [J_Hopkins_Orders@ohsb.uscourts.gov] by 10:00 A.M. on the day of the scheduled hearing.
 
Withdrawals of a motion/application or response will also be accepted until 10:00 A.M. on the day of the scheduled hearing
 
All agreed orders and withdrawals will be reviewed by the Court prior to Noon on the day of the scheduled hearing, at which time the final docket will be posted. 
 
Compliance with this procedure shall excuse counsel from attending the hearing of a matter on the Confirmation or Mega Docket.  However, any such submission presented to chambers after 10:00 A.M. on the day of the scheduled hearing will still appear on the docket and counsel’s attendance shall not be excused.  It is counsel’s responsibility to check the final docket to determine whether the matter has been removed from the docket.
 
The Confirmation and Mega Dockets will begin promptly at 2:00 P.M., irrespective of ongoing discussions between the Chapter 13 Trustee and counsel.
 
     II. Request to Reschedule Hearing:
 
First Request to Reschedule Hearing of Matter.  The Court will liberally grant a request to reschedule the first hearing of a matter on the Confirmation or Mega Docket.  Any directly affected party may make such request by (i) filing a motion and uploading a proposed order or (ii) by uploading an agreed order.
 
Second Request to Reschedule Hearing of Matter.  Any second request to reschedule the hearing of a matter on the Confirmation or Mega Docket must be made by motion and state with particularity the basis for the need to reschedule the hearing.  Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9013, L.B.R. 9013-1.  Counsel shall upload a proposed order for the Court’s consideration at the time the motion is filed.
 
Subsequent Request to Reschedule Hearing of Matter.  Any subsequent requests for a rescheduled hearing must be made by motion, which will be heard and ruled upon by the Court from the bench.  Counsel shall be prepared to proceed on the merits at the hearing in the event the Court denies the request for further adjournment of the matter.
 
Deadline to Request Rescheduled Hearing.  Any request to reschedule the hearing of a matter on the Confirmation or Mega Docket must be made no later than 3 business days prior to the day of the scheduled hearing.  For example, if the hearing is to be held on Thursday, a request for a first rescheduled hearing must be received by the preceding Monday.  If the hearing is to be held on a Tuesday, a request for a first rescheduled hearing must be received by the preceding Thursday.
 
Required Notification to Chambers.  To ensure the request is promptly brought to the Court’s attention, counsel must also email chambers at [J_Hopkins_Orders@ohsb.uscourts.gov] and report that a motion or agreed order to reschedule has been submitted to the Court for consideration.
 
All first and second requests for a rescheduled hearing will be reviewed by the Court and, if granted, the matter will be removed from the docket.  The Court will post a preliminary docket by 4:00 P.M. the day prior to the scheduled hearing and a final docket by Noon on the day of the scheduled hearing.  If the matter does not appear on the preliminary or final docket, counsel is excused from attending the hearing.
 
The Court will use its best efforts to promptly process requests for a rescheduled hearing.  Counsel can aid in this effort by submitting a request to reschedule as early as possible (but not later than 3 business days prior to the day of the scheduled hearing) and following the procedures set forth above for bringing the request to the Court’s attention.  It is counsel’s responsibility to check the final docket to determine whether the request to reschedule has been granted.
 
Reaffirmations
The Court reviews reaffirmations in conjunction with Schedules I and J. Make sure the numbers are consistent. If not, provide an explanation for the difference. If there is a presumption of hardship, make sure a reasonable explanation is provided in Part D of the reaffirmation agreement. If the Court is not satisfied with the reaffirmation agreement, an order will be issued which will require an amended reaffirmation or which will set a hearing on the matter.
 
Adversaries
Pretrial statements are required in every adversary proceeding after the answer has been filed. The pretrial statement form is located in the Local Bankruptcy Rules located on the court's website (www.ohsb.uscourts.gov). Pretrial conferences are conducted in every case after the pretrial statements are filed. These pretrial conferences are usually conducted by telephone. Attorneys should make sure that the proper summons has been issued and served and that the certificate of service is docketed. The Court prefers to wait twenty-one (21) days for objections on motions for default judgment.
 
Discovery
At the pretrial conference, the court sets a cutoff date for discovery. After the cutoff date, the court will not involve itself in discovery disputes. However, the parties are free to continue with discovery beyond the cutoff date on a voluntary basis. The determination of the cutoff date is usually left to the reasonable discretion of the attorneys at the pretrial conference.
 
Trial
After conclusion of the pretrial conference, the court issues an order outlining what needs to be filed and the procedures to do so before the trial date. In general, attorneys should read and follow the orders. Attorneys should pay particular attention in certain cases such as suits to discharge debt under § 523(a)(15).
 
Exhibits
Any exhibits used during the electronic presentation of the exhibit and if admitted into evidence, are to be given to the Courtroom Deputy.
 
The exhibits should be marked as follows:
Adversaries:
Plaintiff's Exhibit 1,
Plaintiff's Exhibit 2, etc.

Defendant's Exhibit A,
Defendant's Exhibit B, etc.

Joint Exhibit AA,

Joint Exhibit BB, etc.

Main case:
Debtor/Movant/Trustee Exhibit 1
Creditor/Respondent/Trustee Exhibit 2, etc.

Joint Exhibit AA
Joint Exhibit BB, etc.

Submitting Orders
Do NOT submit orders prior to the expiration of the appropriate objection period. Make sure the orders are in the proper e-order format as outlined in the ECF's User's Manual located on the Court's website at www.ohsb.uscourts.gov. Orders are to be uploaded in the ECF system (not attached to the motion/application). Orders should NOT contain hyperlinks, social security numbers, account numbers, etc. Orders should contain a service list pursuant to Local Bankruptcy Rule 9072-1(d)

Courtroom Etiquette
Attorneys should be on time and prepared and should try their cases upon the merits, not via attacking other counsel. Courtesy, respect and professionalism shall be displayed at all times. If a situation arises at the last minute and an attorney believes he/she will be late for a hearing, contact the Judicial Assistant. Attorneys should fill out an appearance sheet or present a business card to the Electronic Court Report Operator (ECRO) prior to the hearing. Any requests for transcripts should be made to the ECRO (Karen Wierwille) at (513) 684-5204 or at karen_wierwille@ohsb.uscourts.gov. Attorneys must stand at the podium at all times when addressing the Court. When speaking on the record, attorneys should identify themselves and should make certain to speak directly in front of a microphone. Attorneys should make sure their clients dress appropriately for appearance in a Federal court (e.g. no cutoffs; no chewing gum; remove hats). Cell phones should be on vibrate or turned off.
Contact the Courtroom Deputy prior to the hearing to arrange for the use of chalkboards, easels, etc. Since the courtroom is now electronic, counsel is invited to contact the Courtroom Deputy who will arrange for a time that counsel may visit the courtroom prior to the hearing to experiment with the new technology.

Expectations/Comments
Counsel should always direct arguments to the court and avoid bickering with one another. Attorneys should read and be prepared to address items contained in pretrial orders. The court does not lightly regard it when attorneys come ill prepared for scheduled hearings or oral arguments.