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.

Fourth Judicial District Judges

Sipkins, Thomas

District Court Judge

Counties: Hennepin

State Court Bio: View Bio

Motion Practice
  • How long do you normally allow per party for argument of non-dispositive motions? 10-20 minutes
  • How long do you normally allow per party for oral argument of dispositive motions? 15-30 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: In lieu of formal non dispositive discovery motions, I often have telephone conferences. I expect the attorneys to contact one of my law clerks to arrange a time for a conference; send a brief e-mail/letter outlining the parties' positions. If I cannot resolve the matter informally over the phone, I expect the parties to schedule in court hearings per the rules. 
  • State any specific procedures you would like attorneys in your courtroom to follow at motion hearings: As a general rule, I prefer a written copy of motions and memoranda sent to chambers, in addition to e-filing.
  • 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? No
Pretrial Procedures
  • When do you normally set the pretrial in relation to the trial? Usually at least 30 days before trial
  • Do you normally hear motions in limine at the pretrial? Yes
  • When are jury instructions due? One week prior to trial
  • When are proposed special verdict forms due? One week prior to trial
  • When do you require that final witness lists be exchanged and filed? One week prior to trial
  • When do you require that final exhibit lists be exchanged and filed? One week prior to trial
  • 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: Nothing written in stone; I am flexible
Continuances and Changes in the Scheduling Order
  • For changes in the scheduling order, except date of trial: Informal letters with reasons, and agreement/stipulation of counsel
  • For changes on the date of trial: As a general rule, I require formal motions with affidavits outlining cause
  • Under what circumstances would you consider granting a change in the trial date? Rarely, except for reasonable cause, including illness, or similar; occasionally, if I believe the parties are moving towards settlement and can so demonstrate
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? Yes
    If yes, please explain: Religion
  • Do you require counsel to sit or stand during questioning of witnesses? No preference
  • Do you require counsel to be behind counsel table unless counsel has a specific reason to approach a witness? No
  • 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? 
  • I normally start jury trials at: 9:00 a.m.
  • I normally give the jury a break of 20 minutes minutes in the morning.
  • I normally take a lunch break at: 12:00 - 12:15 p.m.
  • I normally give the jury a break of 20 minutes minutes in the afternoon.
  • I normally finish court for the day at: 4:30 p.m.
  • 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: Depends, but usually not
  • Do you place a time limit on final argument? No
    If yes, If yes, what is the time limit?
  • When do you instruct the jury? After closing arguments
  • 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? No
    Or jail? No
  • Have you ever held counsel in contempt of court? No
  • Have you ever reported an attorney for unethical behavior? Yes
  • When, if ever, would you consider issuing sanctions, formal reprimands, holding an attorney in contempt, or reporting an attorney for unethical behavior? (has to be murder); however, when a lawyer harassed and threatened a guardian ad litem in the hallway with the intent to pressure her into changing her report, I and the chief family court judge reported him to the Board

Judicial Districts