This is the fifth installment of my twenty five tips for Northern District of Illinois litigation practice, with a focus on IP litigation (here are the earlier tips: 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; and 16-20). The tips are gleaned from my practice in the Northern District, my time as a law clerk for the Hon. Gordon J. Quist in the Western District of Michigan, and my reading of all of the Northern District of Illinois intellectual property opinions over the last four years. As you read them, let me know if you come up with others. I will be glad to include them as I go. Here are numbers twenty through twenty five:
- Calculate extensions in 7 day increments. The Federal Rules, and the Local Rules, now calculate deadlines in seven day increments. Based upon that, many Chicago judges expect parties to seek extensions in those same increments.
- Respect Chambers. Chambers staff are pretty universally helpful, but be respectful of them and avoid annoying them. Before calling chambers, read the Local Rules and the judge’s website to make sure your question is not answered there. And call chambers with opposing counsel, unless you have advance permission from the Court or opposing counsel.
- Learn how to seal or redact filings early. The Seventh Circuit frowns upon sealing court filings unless absolutely necessary. As a result, Northern District judges are particular about filing under seal, as is the Clerk’s office. Some protective orders give you a blanket right to file under seal, but others require specific permission. That permission would ideally be sought in advance of filing, but at least concurrent with the filing. Either way, it is critical to know before the evening of a major filing deadline, when the Clerk’s office may be closed, and you may not have much time to begin with. Additionally, the Seventh Circuit requires that briefs be filed in a redacted form instead of under seal. So, many Northern District judges have the same requirement. Either ask the judge’s chambers or counsel who has experience before the particular judge.
- Lean on the ECF hotline. I am routinely surprised by how many people never think to call the Clerk’s ECF number for assistance. The Clerk’s staff is uniformly knowledgeable and eager to help. In particular, call them immediately if you made an ECF-based error while filing. The Clerk’s office can almost always fix it, and it is usually easier for everyone if you have not added to the problem by "fixing" it yourself. One note of caution though, as with calling chambers, give the Clerk’s office the courtesy of reviewing the ECF webpage first to make sure they have not already answered your question there.
- Understand the Court’s pretrial order requirements. More than one Northern District judge will throw out inadequate pre-trial orders. One common flaw to watch for is insufficient statements of fact or conclusions of law. The local, form pre-trial order requires the parties to identify every fact they must prove at trial and every necessary conclusion of law, even for jury trials. This custom differs from some other districts (and not every Northern District judge requires it). Likely because of that and the general pre-trial time crunch, many parties fail to prepare sufficient statements. That can have serious consequences, so start on these early.