By Judge Allen Phillips, Jackson
Too often, practicing law seems as if one is simply “going through the motions,” trying to satisfy some arcane rule or practice.
Recently, the Court held a series of coffee-talks to discuss issues, concerns and trends regarding the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. Turnout was brisk, and feedback plentiful. In this post, we’ll look at the Court’s rules pertaining to motion practice in context of the most prevalent questions.
When “going through the motions,” parties should first review Rule 4 of the Court’s Practices and Procedures, titled appropriately enough as “Motions.” The rule references two types, dispositive and non-dispositive, and explains the filing and hearing procedures for each.
Participants most frequently voiced the following issues regarding motions:
- Do parties “set” hearings? If dispositive, they do. Rule 4.01A. states, “All motions potentially dispositive of any issue in a case shall be scheduled for hearing by the party or attorney filing the motion.” If non-dispositive, Rule 4.01B. says the Court will decide the motion on “the written materials filed with the non-dispositive motion and/or response” unless the Court thinks argument is necessary. But, a party can always request a hearing on the motion if it believes argument is needed. We welcome requests when the issues merit discussion.
- The five-day period for response to a non-dispositive motion is too short. This period exists to prevent unnecessary delays in case resolution. However, if a party needs additional time to respond, ask for it. Efficiency and expediency are important, but fundamental fairness is always the preeminent objective.
- Can there be “motion days?” Rule 4.01A. references “motion days.” However, we don’t set aside a day certain for hearing all pending motions. The reason is actually beneficial to the parties: not having a set day for hearing only motions frees up the Court’s calendar for other matters and actually allows more dates for motion hearings.
- What about problems with the deadlines of filing motions in a Scheduling Order? Ironically, the answer is to file a motion! Again, the Court isn’t adverse to granting additional time to file a motion if the course of discovery or the medical proof dictates it. As with any request, a party should show good cause as to why it needs more time to file and/or respond to a motion. (See the above point regarding requesting additional time for motion responses.)
- What about motions before the filing of a DCN? That’s acceptable. For instance, discovery issues might arise before the mediator files a DCN that certifies the issues as to benefits. A motion won’t replace the DCN for resolution of medical and temporary or permanent disability benefits, but a motion to obtain information needed to aid in resolution of a preliminary matter might be warranted.
- What’s the protocol on motions to compel or other discovery disputes? It’s in Rule 0800-02-21-.16(2). The primary difficulty voiced at the meetings seemed to be the specifics of bringing the motion. The rule explains the proponent must quote verbatim the request at issue, state the reasons supporting the motion, and (importantly) state with particularity the efforts made by the proponent to resolve the dispute. Example: a party hasn’t answered particular interrogatories; the proponent of a motion to compel should attach what is unanswered, say in the motion that the discovery is unanswered, and attach the correspondence(s) indicating you tried to get answers. If they haven’t answered the entire set of interrogatories, however, you don’t need to attach those.
The Court wants litigants to receive fair, efficient, and expedient results. Going through the motions (in a good way!) can achieve those results.
Next: Some Urgent advice for filing medical records.