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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.


Seventh Judicial District Judges


Vaa, Galen

District Court Judge

Counties: Clay

State Court Bio: View Bio

Motion Practice
  • How long do you normally allow per party for argument of non-dispositive motions? Ten minutes
  • How long do you normally allow per party for oral argument of dispositive motions? Fifteen 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? No
    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: NA
  • State any specific procedures you would like attorneys in your courtroom to follow at motion hearings: [No Answer Entered]
  • 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? Ideally, about two weeks to a month before the scheduled trial.
  • Do you normally hear motions in limine at the pretrial? No
  • When are jury instructions due? Five days prior before the commencement of the trial
  • When are proposed special verdict forms due? Five days prior before the commencement of the trial
  • When do you require that final witness lists be exchanged and filed? At the final pretrial
  • When do you require that final exhibit lists be exchanged and filed? At the final 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: The attorneys should be fully prepared to discuss all settlement negotiations that have been entered into up to that date. All parties who have authority to settle the case should be present at the Final Pretrial Conference. Insurance representatives may be present by telephone.
Continuances and Changes in the Scheduling Order
  • For changes in the scheduling order, except date of trial: I am very liberal in allowing continuances to the scheduling order, if counsel can provide me with a reasonably valid reason for making the request. My primary concern is that the case to ultimately resolved on the merits, and not on a technical violations of the rules.
  • For changes on the date of trial: I am somewhat restrictive in allowing changes in a scheduled trial date. Our trial calendar is so congested here in Clay County and continuances create a significant inconvenience to court administration.
  • Under what circumstances would you consider granting a change in the trial date? The unavialability of a key witness, if said unavailability was not caused by the conduct of one of the parties. Also, any unusual complications in pre-trial discovery might be considered as a valid cause for a continuance.
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: Counsel will not be allowed to use Voir Dire to educate or indoctrinate the jury concerning their theory of the case. Counsel should not ask hypothetical questions to jurors, and ask them how they would rule or find based upon said hypothetical statement of facts. Obviously, counsel will not be allowed to ask jurors questions that tend to cause the jury to be "committed" to a certain verdict, if certain evidence is presented in the case.
  • Do you require counsel to sit or stand during questioning of witnesses? The may remain seated. However, the best attorneys usually elect to stand behind a podium in questioning witnesses.
  • 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? Yes
    If yes, how many minutes before court commences? Fifteen
  • I normally start jury trials at: 9:00 a.m.
  • I normally give the jury a break of 15 minutes in the morning.
  • I normally take a lunch break at: 12:00 to 1:15 p.m.
  • I normally give the jury a break of 15 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? Yes
  • If counsel asks to approach to argue a ruling, do you generally: I generally allow this practice.
  • Do you place a time limit on final argument? No
    If yes, If yes, what is the time limit? NA
  • When do you instruct the jury? Before the final 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? 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? Knowingly providing false information to the court. Also, repeated violations of specific rulings made during the trial would result in a reprimand and if serious enough, a finding of contempt.

Judicial Districts