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Civil Litigation Section

Judges' Courtroom Preferences

In Minnesota, there are currently 293 district court judges who preside over matters in ten judicial districts. While the Minnesota Rules of Court provide attorneys with significant information applicable to court proceedings, each judge may have his or her individual preferences with respect to motion practice and courtroom conduct.

In an effort to assist attorneys who may be appearing before a judge for the first time, the MSBA Civil Litigation Section Governing Council provided all district court judges with a brief questionnaire. The responses that we received are organized here by judicial district and the judge’s name. We hope you find these responses to be helpful in your preparation for district court appearances.

For information about this project or to report an error in any judicial directory listing, contact Jennifer Carter, MSBA staff liaison to the Civil Litigation Section.


Eighth Judicial District Judges


Nelson, Paul A.

Senior Judge

Counties: Chippewa

State Court Bio: View Bio

Motion Practice
  • How long do you normally allow per party for argument of non-dispositive motions? 15 minutes
  • How long do you normally allow per party for oral argument of dispositive motions? 30 minutes
  • With respect to oral argument, do you prefer an attorney to not reiterate written material? Yes
  • Do you regularly conduct hearings and motions by phone? Yes
    If yes, please describe the procedure you would like attorneys to use to do so, including how testimony is to be transcribed and who puts the teleconference together: I would prefer a joint request from counsel. I prefer that one of the attorneys arranges the conference call. I have the ability to keep the record in my chambers where I take most of the calls. I usually do NOT take testimony in those hearings but argument only.
  • State any specific procedures you would like attorneys in your courtroom to follow at motion hearings: I make it a priority to review all submissions prior to the actual hearing. Receipt of a large fax transmission at 5:30 PM the day before a 10:00 AM hearing is met with some chagrin on my part. My advice is to file in advance so I can be prepared. I also appreciate a clear delineation of the relief that is being sought. My staff and most attorneys who appear before me know that I hate surprises. If there are issues I'll be asked address I want to know them sooner rather than later.
  • Do you like to receive courtesy copies of motion papers? Yes
Discovery Disputes
  • Do you require counsel to "meet and confer" before bringing discovery disputes to a hearing? Yes
  • Will you accept telephone calls from attorneys to rule on discovery disputes that occur during the course of a deposition? Yes
Pretrial Procedures
  • When do you normally set the pretrial in relation to the trial? 30
  • Do you normally hear motions in limine at the pretrial? Yes
  • When are jury instructions due? Usually they are due about two weeks prior to the start of the trial. I do not ask for them at the pre-trial conference.
  • When are proposed special verdict forms due? If I make a specific request for verdict forms (not always the case) I do it in an order or, most often, from the bench or in a phone conference. I will them set a specific date for submitting them.
  • When do you require that final witness lists be exchanged and filed? At the time of the pretrial
  • When do you require that final exhibit lists be exchanged and filed? At the time of the pretrial
  • Do you discuss settlement of the case with the parties at the time of the pretrial? Yes
  • State any specific procedures you would like attorneys to follow at the time of the pretrial: Just know your case and and be prepared to raise any issues that you may want me to address.
Continuances and Changes in the Scheduling Order
  • For changes in the scheduling order, except date of trial: I normally allow such changes if counsel agree.
  • For changes on the date of trial: Such changes are not allowed without special written request or a motion to the court.
  • Under what circumstances would you consider granting a change in the trial date? New evidence that could not have been reasonably discovered earlier - Unexpected unavailability of major witnesses due to circumstance beyond the control of the parties - Joint request of both parties for the continuance for "very good" reasons
Civil Jury Trials
  • Do you perform preliminary voir dire? Yes
  • Do you place a time limit on voir dire by counsel? No
  • Is there subject matter you will not permit counsel to ask of the jury? No
    If yes, please explain: [No Answer Entered]
  • Do you require counsel to sit or stand during questioning of witnesses? Don't care, they can do either
  • Do you require counsel to be behind counsel table unless counsel has a specific reason to approach a witness? Yes
  • Do you normally require counsel to meet each morning with the court before the jury comes into the courtroom? No
    If yes, how many minutes before court commences? [No Answer Entered]
  • I normally start jury trials at: 9:00 a.m.
  • I normally give the jury a break of 15-20 minutes in the morning.
  • I normally take a lunch break at: 12:00 Noon
  • I normally give the jury a break of 15-20 minutes in the afternoon.
  • I normally finish court for the day at: 4:30 p.m., unless there is good reason to go longer such as finishing a witness
  • Do you permit jurors to:
    Take Notes: Yes
    Keep notes during deliberation? Yes
    Ask the witnesses questions? No
  • If counsel asks to approach to argue a ruling, do you generally: Engage in the discussion at the bench with the jury present.
  • Do you place a time limit on final argument? No
    If yes, If yes, what is the time limit? [No Answer Entered]
  • When do you instruct the jury? After argument
  • After argument and instructions, do you:
    Require counsel to be available by telephone? Yes
    Request that counsel remain at the courthouse during deliberations of the jury? No
    Take a verdict without counsel present and inform them after the verdict by telephone of the result? Yes
Sanctions of Counsel
  • Have you ever sanctioned counsel with imposition of a fine? Yes
    Or jail? No
  • Have you ever held counsel in contempt of court? No
  • Have you ever reported an attorney for unethical behavior? No
  • When, if ever, would you consider issuing sanctions, formal reprimands, holding an attorney in contempt, or reporting an attorney for unethical behavior? This is way too broad to reasonably be able to answer. But, I expect civility and professionalism above all else. Bringing motions or attempting to denigrate the other side solely for the purpose of a show to the client with no other basis will not pay any dividends and may result in imposition of sanctions.

Judicial Districts