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District Courts Adjust to Cases with No Physical Appearances

As many district courts around the country close doors on physical appearances, some district courts are ordering that civil hearings proceed either telephonically or by video. Although such an approach is common in many state courts, it is much more unusual for telephonic or video appearances to occur in district courts. As a result of COVID-19 and the length of time that may be required for continued social distancing, district courts have recognized that telephonic and video appearances will become necessary for many cases.

We should therefore expect more standing orders, similar to the one just issued in the Western District of Texas by Judge Albright. As a result of this order, there will now be specific procedures for hearings that will not require physical appearances. Hearings will continued to take place in the following manner:

All hearings for civil cases on the Waco division’s docket will continue as scheduled, but will occur telephonically. The Court will provide the dial-in information’ either via e-mail or within an order. Because there may be several hearings back-to-back, attorneys should wait until their case is called before speaking. Parties are encouraged to dial-in at least 10 minutes before the scheduled start time.

The district court has also put into place a process for using slides at hearings. For non-Markman hearings, “the party must email them to the Court at least 24 hours before the hearing. If both parties wish to use PowerPoint slides, the parties must email them to the Court at an agreed time at least 24 hours before the hearing. If a party fails to email slides to the Court at least 24 hours before the hearing, the Court will deem that that party has waived its ability to use slides during the hearing.”

For Markman hearings, “parties must email any slides they wish to use within 6 hours of receiving preliminary constructions from the Court.”

As the COVID-19 crisis continues and personal appearances are precluded, we can expect additional orders to issue from the district courts requiring telephonic and video hearings.

The authors of are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. For more information about this case, contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or