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Judge Michelle L. Peterson Procedures

Chambers Procedures

Magistrate Judge Overview

Social Security Appeals

Pro Se Plaintiffs

 

Chambers Procedures

Local Rules

Unless specifically noted otherwise, Judge Peterson follows the Court’s local rules. Counsel are directed to consult the Local Rules for the Western District of Washington and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on all matters.

 

Motions to Seal

Parties moving to file documents under seal must comply with W.D. Wash. LCR 5(g). All motions to seal, including stipulated motions, must describe with specificity the documents sought to be protected, provide facts justifying sealing, and include a proposed order.

If counsel cannot agree, then a properly noted motion to seal must be filed prior to or contemporaneously with the document to be sealed.

If a party seeks to file a document that another party claims is confidential, the party seeking to file the document shall give at least seven days notice to the other parties so a motion to seal may be prepared and filed by the proponent of sealing at the same time the document is submitted.

Counsel shall advise the Court of the requested disposition of confidential matters in the event the Court denies a request to seal (e.g., should the information be removed from the docket rather than be unsealed).

The Court generally considers all evidence presented at trial, including confidential materials, to be matters of public record. Although the parties may move or stipulate to maintaining as confidential any sealed information used at trial, the Court retains the authority to determine what evidence should be part of the public record.

 

Meet and Confer Requirement

For all cases, except applications for temporary restraining orders, counsel contemplating the filing of any motion shall first contact opposing counsel to discuss thoroughly, preferably in person, the substance of the contemplated motion and any potential resolution. The Court construes this requirement strictly. Half-hearted attempts at compliance with this rule will not satisfy counsel’s obligation.

The parties must discuss the substantive grounds for the motion and attempt to reach an accord that would eliminate the need for the motion. The Court strongly emphasizes that discussions of the substance of contemplated motions are to take place, if at all possible, in person. All motions must include a declaration by counsel briefly describing the parties’ discussion and attempt to eliminate the need for the motion and the date of such discussion. Filings not in compliance with this rule may be stricken.

 

Discovery Disputes

Judge Peterson strongly encourages parties to make every effort to resolve discovery disputes without the Court’s intervention. Judge Peterson also schedules a status conference with the parties in the middle of the discovery period to help resolve any potential discovery disputes at the earliest possible date. To the extent motions practice is necessary, Judge Peterson encourages parties to take advantage of the expedited discovery dispute procedures described in W.D. Wash. LCR 37(a)(2).

The parties may also contact the Court when presented with disputes regarding discovery issues that are particularly time-sensitive. This approach may resolve the dispute in an expedient manner and avoid the extra costs associated with motions practice. The moving party must make reasonable efforts to have all parties to the discovery dispute participate in contacting the Court. See W.D. Wash. LCR 7(i). Counsel may telephone Judge Peterson’s chambers at (206) 370-8940 to make arrangements for a telephone conference with Judge Peterson.

 

Settlement Conference Procedures

When a case is referred for a judicial settlement conference before Judge Peterson, the Court will promptly issue a letter setting the date and time for the settlement conference. The letter will also outline the following procedures.

Who Must Be Present. Each attorney who will try the case should be physically present, accompanied by the client or a representative with full authority to resolve the case. If there are other interested parties whose presence would assist in resolving the case, please arrange for their attendance. Failure to produce the appropriate persons at the mediation or failure to participate in good faith may result in an award of costs and attorney fees incurred by the other parties regarding the conference.

Settlement Briefs. The parties shall exchange settlement briefs no more than 8 pages in length that set forth the issues to resolve, and the current status of settlement by 12:00 noon on a date to be specified by the Court. The briefs should identify all individuals who will be in attendance at the conference with authority to settlement the case. The briefs should not be filed, but should be emailed to Judge Peterson’s courtroom deputy at Tim_Farrell@wawd.uscourts.gov.

Confidential Settlement Memoranda. Each party shall email a settlement memo of no more than five pages in length to Tim_Farrell@wawd.uscourts.gov by 12:00 noon on a date to be specified by the Court. These memos are confidential, and should not be filed with the Clerk’s Office or served on opposing counsel. Settlement memos should help the Court understand the facts, the issues to resolve, the applicable law and the parties’ settlement position. The memo should include a settlement proposal, and describe settlement efforts to date. Exhibits that would help the Court understand the case may also be submitted.

Good Faith Participation. The Court expects all participants to be prepared and sincerely interested in settlement. All parties should keep an open mind and be willing to reassess previous positions. Parties should be frank and open in their discussions. The Court expects the parties to address each other with courtesy and respect. In order to allow enough time to thoroughly explore all issues, the Court will set aside the entire day for the settlement conference. The parties should adjust their schedules accordingly.

 

Social Security Appeals

In response to the heavy caseload of social security appeals, our district has developed certain procedures to help streamline and simplify these cases for the parties as well as the Court.

Most significantly, a plaintiff has the option to effectuate service electronically as detailed in General Orders 04-15 and 05-15, by sending a copy of the summonses and complaint, along the plaintiff’s identifying information and social security number, by email to USAWAW.SSAClerk@usdoj.gov. The Social Security Administration will respond to the complaint within approximately sixty (60) days by filing a copy of the administrative record (AR).

The parties should carefully review the Court’s Scheduling Order, and abide by the briefing requirements. For example, a plaintiff’s opening brief is limited to eighteen (18) pages in length, and must identify the alleged errors on page 1. The government’s responsive brief is also limited to eighteen (18) pages, and plaintiff’s optional reply brief is limited to nine (9) pages. All briefs and exhibits must also conform to the redaction rules regarding personal data set forth in W.D. Wash. LCR 5.2 and to the formatting requirements set forth in LCR 10, or they will be stricken.

Finally, the parties should note that stipulations and motions to extend time or page limitations must be noted on the Court’s calendar prior to the due date pursuant to the briefing schedules established in LCR 10(g) and LCR 7, respectively. Without more, a heavy workload is not good cause to extend the briefing schedule in a social security case.

 

Pro Se Plaintiffs

Procedures Regarding Prisoner Civil Rights Suits – 42 U.S.C. § 1983

IFP requests. To file a complaint you must pay the $400.00 filing fee ($350.00 plus a $50.00 administrative fee) or obtain the Court’s permission to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). If you are granted leave to proceed IFP, funds will be deducted from your prison account on a monthly basis, as funds are available, until the $350.00 filing fee is paid. Link to IFP application.

Pretrial Scheduling Order. Where plaintiff is a pro se prisoner, the parties need not make initial disclosures or hold a scheduling conference under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. Because the parties are relieved of these obligations, the Court will enter a Pretrial Scheduling Order that: (1) directs discovery be completed within a specified period, usually within approximately 90 days of the order; (2) sets the date by which dispositive motions must be filed; (3) advises the plaintiff about the consequences of failing to respond to a summary judgment motion; and (4) advises the parties the joint pretrial statement will be scheduled at a later time.

Special Noting Rules where a party is confined. Stipulated and agreed motions, motions to file over-length motions or briefs, motions for reconsideration, joint submissions pursuant to the option procedure established in LCR 37(a)(2), motions for default, requests for the clerk to enter default judgment, and motions for the court to enter default judgment where the opposing party has not appeared shall be noted for consideration on the day they are filed. See LCR 7(d)(1). All other non-dispositive motions shall be noted for consideration no earlier than the third Friday following filing and service of the motion. See LCR 7(d)(3). All dispositive motions shall be noted for consideration no earlier than the fourth Friday following filing and service of the motion. Id. Second Friday motions under LCR 7(d)(2) are disallowed in prisoner cases.

 

Procedures Regarding Petitions for a Writ of Habeas Corpus – 28 U.S.C. § 2254

IFP requests. To file a complaint you must pay the $5.00 filing fee or obtain the Court’s permission to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). Link to habeas IFP form.

Discovery. Under Rule 6 of the Rules Governing § 2254 cases, discovery is not permitted without prior court order.

The State Court Record. If the Court orders an Answer, respondent must indicate what transcripts are available, when they can be furnished and what proceedings have been recorded but not transcribed. Respondent must file with the Court all relevant portions of the state court record. The Court may order the respondent to file additional parts of the record.

Evidentiary Hearing. If the Court determines an evidentiary hearing is warranted, the Court will appoint counsel to represent petitioner under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A. If the case has been referred to Judge Peterson, her Deputy Clerk will contact counsel to schedule the evidentiary hearing. Judge Peterson will also enter an order directing the parties to submit a hearing brief setting forth the issues presented, and the parties’ witnesses and exhibits.