SANTA BARBARA SUPERIOR COURT
JUDGE DENISE de BELLEFEUILLE
It is our goal to provide you and your clients with a formal,
fair, and comfortable courtroom environment in which to try your
lawsuit. There are certain expectations we have of your courtroom
conduct. In giving you this information, we intend that you will
act in accordance with our expectations and that together we will
accomplish the goal of providing you and your clients a positive
trial experience, win, lose, or draw.
First, we wish to draw your attention to the Santa
Barbara Superior Court local rules. You are expected to be familiar
with the rules,
including the Rules of Civility, adopted by the court prior to
consolidation in 1998. The Rules of Civility are available on-line
for your reading pleasure.
The judge expects you to act as a polite, well prepared problem
solver. Your attitude towards your opponent, towards the jury,
and to court staff must at all time be respectful. In the courtroom
formal titles shall be used at all times for all parties and people,
including the judge’s staff. NO FIRST NAMES IN THE COURTROOM
AT ANY TIME, INCLUDING BREAKS.
At the current time, the judge’s staff includes the following
CLERK OF THE COURT:
Ms Kristi Temple, Courtroom phone: (805) 882-4578
The clerk is responsible for collecting jury fees, swearing witnesses,
making minute orders for all the court’s activities during
trial, marking and preserving evidence.
IF YOU HAVE REQUESTED THE JURY YOU MOST POST THE JURY FEES EACH
MORNING BEFORE WE BEGIN COURT PROCEEDINGS. Failure to do so may
result in a delay in the trial and/or the imposition of sanctions.
The clerk appreciates the opportunity to pre-mark exhibits, particularly
in a case with many documents. You are to meet and confer with
your opponent at the earliest opportunity to agree on exhibits
and have them pre-marked by the clerk.
Deputy Ron Clark, Santa Barbara
Deputy Clark provides security for all of us
and is charged with the duty of watching over the jury when they
the case. If the witnesses are ordered excluded from the courtroom,
he will check everyone who comes into the courtroom to make sure
they abide by the order. He will not tolerate rude, noisy or boisterous
conduct, from whatever source.
Ms. Sandra Flynn, telephone number (805) 882-4546
Please instruct your witnesses to not answer any question until
the lawyer asking the question has finished articulating it and
the judge has had an opportunity to rule on any objection made
to the question. The worst thing from a court reporter’s
point of view is for two or more people to talk over one another.
Rapid speech is also problematic.
Pamela Hiromerides, telephone number (805) 882-4590 or Marilyn Metzner,
telephone number (805) 882-4570
Either Ms. Hiromerides or Ms.
Metzner is the person to call prior to trial to get a sense of
the judge’s calendar and whether the court can honor your
initial trial call. She will NOT tell you whether you are definitely
going or not going to trial. She will merely be able to tell you
whether the court is still engaged in finishing another trial (so
that your chances of starting on the first day are minimal). You
are welcome to call her for such information, but remember, IT
IS THE JUDGE WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL CALENDARING AND TRYING
OF CASES, AND THAT THE JUDGE MAKES NO FINAL DECISIONS ABOUT THE
PRIORITY OF TRYING CASES UNTIL THE ACTUAL TRIAL CALL.
Trial days for this department are Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Starting March
Thursday afternoons are also available from1: 30 p.m. to 4:30
p.m. It is Judge de Bellefeuille’s preference to reserve
Fridays for short cause trials and conduct jury trials Monday
through Wednesday (and possibly Thursday afternoons), though
she is flexible on this time frame. She has found the Monday
through Wednesday schedule to be very helpful to jurors and
lawyers alike. It also gives her the opportunity to keep current
law trials. Court begins PROMPTLY at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Any matters that need to be handled out of the presence of
the jury will be held before 9:00, after 4:30 or close to the
break times to avoid inconveniencing the jury.
If the case was set for trial call on a Friday morning at 9 a.m.
the court will hear motions in limine that morning, with jury selection
the following Monday. Under the new system starting March, 1, 2004,
trial calls for the three general civil departments is to be at
11:30 a.m. on that department’s law and motion day. Thursday
is the law and motion day for Department Six. Thus, if you have
a Thursday trial call, you can anticipate doing motions in limine
Jury fees are to be posted 25 days prior to trial. Court reporter
fees and daily juror fees are to be paid to the court clerk on
a daily basis prior to the start of the day’s proceedings.
Motions in limine should be submitted in writing, although the
court may entertain oral motions as well. A complete list of jury
instructions must be provided to the court at the trial call, and
counsel shall lodge their requests for general or special verdict
before the commencement of trial.
Each side must also submit a complete list of witnesses, and an
estimate of time for that witness’ testimony. The court will
formulate the estimate of time for the entire trial based on the
information submitted by the attorneys, and counsel shall be bound
by their estimates. You are expected to have your witnesses available
and ready to testify during our hours of operation. To avoid delays
it is desirable to have more than one witness at the courthouse.
FAILURE TO HAVE YOUR WITNESSES AVAILABLE MAY RESULT IN YOUR CASE
BEING RESTED! If there is an unavoidable gap between witnesses,
the judge will require witnesses to be taken out of order. This
means that if the opponent has someone available, that witness
will take the stand.
The judge and lawyers will meet towards the end of the evidence
to finalize jury instructions. Counsel are expected to be readily
available by telephone for jury questions that may arise during
Although the Santa Barbara Superior Court has not published an
official dress code, in keeping with the dignity and serious nature
of court proceedings, proper attire is required in the courtroom.
No participant in a case may appear in a tank top, tube-top, cut-offs,
shorts, or any other inappropriate clothing. The court does not
wish to see the belly buttons or cleavage of any witness. Chewing
gum or tobacco is also forbidden. Attorneys are responsible for
ensuring that clients and witnesses comply with this rule.
The standing order of the court is to exclude witnesses from the
trial before opening statements. The attorneys are expected to
monitor this order. Likewise, counsel will advise their witnesses
not to discuss their testimony with any other witness after the
witness testifies. Counsel shall further advise parties and witnesses
that nodding, grimaces, unnecessary gestures, etc. are not tolerated:
and of course, counsel are to refrain from the same.
On a related topic, speaking objections are not permitted. When
an attorney has an objection, he or she must state it briefly and
succinctly, in one or two words. Examples of appropriate objections
include: “objection, hearsay”; “objection, vague”; “objection,
calls for a narrative”. An example of an impermissible objection
would be “objection, my opponent is unfairly trying to throw
a red herring into the proceedings by asking a question that she
knows is loaded.” Not only do these objections take up a
great deal of space and time, they are impossible for the court
to address within the rules of evidence, are unprofessional, and
may constitute a personal attack on opposing counsel, which the
court will not permit under any circumstance.
Permission to approach witnesses must be requested from the court
before an attorney may walk up to the witness stand. Generally
permission need only be requested once per witness. All exhibits
you intend to show to a witness MUST BE MARKED AS AN EXHIBIT PRIOR
to showing it to that witness. You must also have the witness authenticate
the document for the record as the first act of discussion of that
item of evidence. Thus, the proper procedure is as follows: Attorney: “Your
honor, may I approach the witness?” Assuming that permission
to approach is granted, the next question would be: Attorney: “I
am showing you exhibit one marked for identification. What is this?
And/Or “How do you recognize it?” Or “Did you
prepare this?” In other words, authentification is simply
the process of revealing for the record what an item of evidence
purports to be. You must authenticate evidence before making a
motion to have it admitted into evidence, and you may not publish
any evidence to the jury (by use of the Elmo or by passing it through
the jury box) until it is entered into evidence. Attorneys
are encouraged to enter into stipulations to admit exhibits. Such
stipulations must be arranged outside the presence of the jury.
The court disdains sidebars and will only reluctantly participate
in them. Jurors hate them. They feel that the attorneys and judge
are unjustifiably excluding information from them. Thus, the court
encourages the attorneys to meet with the judge before 9 a.m. (8:45
a.m. is always good) or after 4:30 p.m. to work out any logistical
problems and minimize surprises that would lead to a request for
One last note. Never, I repeat never, argue with the judge
after she has made an evidentiary ruling. It is disrespectful and outside
the boundaries of fair advocacy. On a more practical level, it
is a fight you can’t win. If you insist on arguing with the
judge, prepare to be embarrassed in front of the jury. Likewise,
remove from your vocabulary the antiquated phrase “with all
due respect, your honor.” It connotes little if no respect
at all. If you insist on a preface to any comment you might have
for the judge, try “respectfully”. It may be subversive,
but not overt.
*Wednesday is apple strudel day. When we are in session in jury
trial, the jury and lawyers are treated to sweets from Anderson’s
Danish Bakery, courtesy of Judge de Bellefeuille.
AVAILABLE COURTROOM EQUIPMENT
The courtroom is equipped with an ELMO, VCR, and can accommodate
laptop computers and power point presentations. You may arrange
to visit the courtroom before trial to be instructed in the proper
use of our equipment.
The judge expects the parties to meet and confer and create a
brief joint statement of the case, which is to be read by the judge
to the jury panel. It should be a neutral statement of what the
issues are in the case for the jury to decide. The judge will also
ask counsel to submit written questions that the judge can ask
each juror. These should be universally applicable questions. The
fact that the judge assumes the duty of asking such questions does
not limit your right to fully voir dire the panel of potential
jurors. It has simply been our experience that when the judge asks
the questions, the lawyers have an opportunity to sit back and
listen to the answers, and to then make an intelligent decision
as to whether follow-up questions are necessary. Please do not
repeat the same question already asked of a juror by the judge.
We will employ the “six pack”. This means that 12
prospective jurors will be seated in the jury box. An additional
group of six people is placed in the front row of the gallery,
closest to the jury box. The judge and then the lawyers question
all 18 people. When you have finished your questioning of the entire
group, inform the judge whether you “pass for cause” or
reserve challenges for cause. If you have reserved challenges for
cause we will take them up outside the presence of the jury as
soon as both sides have completed their questioning of the panel.
In the typical civil action with only two parties, each side has
6 peremptory challenges. With the six-pack, peremptory challenges
are issued against only people seated in the jury box. When such
a person is excused, the seat left vacant is filled by the first
person of the six pack. Thus it goes until we have run through
the six-pack. At the same time, depending on how close the parties
feel they are to selecting a jury, the judge will seat 7 additional
people, or call up one person at a time.