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.

Tenth Judicial District Judges

Hoffman, John C.

Chief District Court Judge

Counties: Washington County

State Court Bio: View Bio

Motion Practice
  • How long do you normally allow per party for argument of non-dispositive motions? Usually as long (assuming no other calendar constraints) as they need assuming in is not repetitive.
  • How long do you normally allow per party for oral argument of dispositive motions? Usually as long (assuming no other calendar constraints) as they need assuming in is not repetitive.
  • 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: If I do conduct such a motion, (which be normally involve a true emergency or a motion based upon an immediate need, I would request the attorneys (both) contact my law clerk or reporter and advise as to the need and timing of the motion. If I decide to do it on the phone it would be incumbent upon the attorneys to confirm the time and place a conference call with the my chambers being contacted last.
  • State any specific procedures you would like attorneys in your courtroom to follow at motion hearings: Add to my current answer the following: Additionally, as a result of the fact that Washington County is now an e-filing county I request that copies of motions and affidavits be separately provided by e-mail to my law clerk, Lora Kasper.
  • 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? Pre-trials are typically set in the scheduling order to occur after the discovery process has been completed and several weeks before the trial date.
  • Do you normally hear motions in limine at the pretrial? Yes
  • When are jury instructions due? At some point before trial, but if the lawyers are aware of novel or unique instruction or that the law is unsettled in the area it is incumbent upon Counsel to advise the Court of that fact so that the important task of describing the legal case for the
  • When are proposed special verdict forms due? See above. The verdict form and how it is crafted in many respects is more important that the JIGS.
  • 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: To disclose and be able to discuss unique issues about JIGS, the special verdict form; witness issues; unique or undecided areas of the law that might be involved.
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: A change in the trial date is possible with a written request or motion to the Court and a reasonable explanation justifying the change. Please note however that I cannot guaranty when the new trial date will be set and in the case of multi-party litigation I am typically reluctant to change the trial date due to the complexity of managing trial counsel litigation calendars.
  • Under what circumstances would you consider granting a change in the trial date? It would depend upon the justification. It should be noted that my experience is that trial times that are scheduled and confirmed are a precious resource and it is difficult to justify a date change when the court has based its future schedule on confirmed trial dates.
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: Things that are clearly objectionable like trying to commit the jury to a position - - things like that.
  • Do you require counsel to sit or stand during questioning of witnesses? Based upon preference of counsel.
  • 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? Only if it is necessary and normally it would be discussed the day before.
  • 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 noon
  • 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., unless a witness needs to be finished
  • 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 discussion at the bench with the jury present and allow counsel to make a record outside of the presence of the jury.
  • Do you place a time limit on final argument? Yes
    If yes, If yes, what is the time limit? Normally I have not put time limited but in complex cases or cases where I know counsel will be lengthy I have discussed limits.
  • When do you instruct the jury? Before 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? No
    Or jail? No
  • Have you ever held counsel in contempt of court? Yes
  • 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? Direct or indirect insulant behavior towards the court or counsel or witnesses after appropriate warnings have been given but ignored.

Judicial Districts