Standard Operating Procedures
- Child Witnesses in Custody Cases
- Conferences and Conference Memos
- Courtesy Copies
- Courtroom Procedures Generally
- De Novo Equitable Distribution Trials
- Jury Trials
- Proposed Orders
The children who are the subject of a custody case and any other children residing in the applicable households are not to be involved in the preparation or presentation of the case until and unless that has been specifically authorized by Judge Bowman. This means that they should not be told anything about the case by anyone nor should they even know that a court matter is pending.
Unless previously authorized, Judge Bowman does not hear the testimony of any child who is the subject of a custody case until all other testimony and evidence has been presented.
In no circumstance should children be brought into the courtroom for any matter without pre-approval from Judge Bowman. Participants in court proceedings are reminded that the court staff is not responsible to monitor any children and if any participant brings a child to the Justice Center with them, it is their responsibility to bring another responsible adult who will be able to monitor the child while the litigant is in the courtroom.
If all counsel agree that a conference may be helpful, Judge Bowman will work to accommodate a request for a conference. When requesting a conference, counsel should indicate the purpose for the conference, the length of time requested and the position of the other counsel as to having a conference.
For all Pre-Trial or Settlement Conferences, actual trial counsel and all individual parties shall be physically present unless specifically excused by Judge Bowman. If there are any entities that are parties in the case, the person or persons with final decision making authority for the entity shall be physically present at the conference unless specifically excused by Judge Bowman. In any case where there is an insurance carrier that has any control over the resolution of the case, the person or persons with full decision making authority for the insurance carrier shall be physically present at the conference unless specifically excused by Judge Bowman. Any requests for any person to be excused shall be made in writing immediately after notice of the conference is first given. Late requests ordinarily will not be considered.
The Court expects that each party will submit a Conference Memo to Chambers at least three (3) days prior to any scheduled Settlement or Pre-Trial Conference. Conference Memos may be submitted by mail or email. Conference Memos can be in the form of a letter addressed to the Court. All Conference Memos submitted to the Court should be transmitted to all other counsel and unrepresented parties in the same manner as they are transmitted to the Court.
Conference Memos should briefly describe the issue or issues to be discussed at the conference and should indicate the position of the submitting party with respect to those issues. Conference Memos should not exceed five (5) pages.
Conference Memos should not be filed with the Prothonotary or Clerk of Courts and do not become part of the record in any case. Conference Memos are designed solely to assist Judge Bowman in preparing for the conference.
Requests for continuances of matters on any Trial or Arbitration List are handled by the Court Administrator's Office. The procedures can be found on the Calendar Office page.
Requests for continuances for matters specifically scheduled before Judge Bowman should be addressed to the Judge's Chambers by mail or email. Continuance requests must be sought as soon as possible. Continuances are not favored. There must be good cause for any continuance request. All requests for continuances must indicate the steps taken to seek the approval of all other counsel or unrepresented parties of the continuance. The reason for the request and the position of all other counsel or unrepresented parties to the request should be stated in writing when making the request. If a party fails to object to a request for a continuance within 24 hours of the request being made, that party's silence will be deemed to be consent to the continuance request.
Only when pleadings or documents are filed within 24 hours prior to a conference, hearing or trial is it necessary for courtesy copies of said documents filed with the appropriate office to be given to the Court or sent to Chambers. Counsel are expected to file documents in a timely fashion to ensure they will be in the Court file when it is delivered to the Judge.
- Please know and follow the applicable Pennsylvania Rules and the Bucks County Local Rules.
- Counsel of record or self-represented parties shall be well prepared and personally attend all court appearances unless express permission otherwise has been granted by the Court. All persons, including witnesses, shall be prompt and appropriately attired.
- There should be a heightened sense of civility in the Courtroom at all times. All attorneys are to be civil to one another and to all parties and witnesses. When in Court, attorneys and parties should refer to each other, Court personnel, and/or anyone else in the Courtroom, by their last name or title only (Mr. Jones, Ms. Smith, defense counsel, etc.).
- At the outset of a hearing or a trial, counsel shall place on the record the complete caption of the case for the benefit of the Court Reporter. Counsel shall also state and spell their name, indicate any firm affiliation and state which party or parties they represent in the action.
- Counsel and unrepresented parties are generally expected to stand when addressing the Court. When speaking, counsel and unrepresented parties shall address the Court, not the opposing party or counsel.
- The Court welcomes submission of legal authority. Please bring a copy for Judge Bowman, her law clerk, and provide a copy of any such submissions to opposing counsel and/or parties who are unrepresented.
- The Court prefers parties to exchange exhibits before a trial or a hearing begins. Therefore, if they have not already done so, the parties should arrive in Court early and confer with one another regarding the exhibits. It is the duty and responsibility of the litigants to bring sufficient copies of all exhibits.
- The Court believes that the parties should be able to stipulate to many facts, and, therefore, at the beginning of the case or controversy, the parties should precisely set forth the following:
- Subject matter and nature of the dispute
- Stipulations of fact which are necessary to develop a record, but which are not contested
- A precise statement as to what is being contested and each party's position regarding each matter contested
- Objections should be stated formally and responded to formally. When objecting, counsel should only state "objection" and the legal grounds for the objection. Do not offer extensive argument or explanation unless requested to do so by the Court. Do not use objections for the purpose of making a speech, recapitulating testimony, or attempting to guide the witness.
- Counsel and all parties are expected to make a good faith effort to communicate with each other and discuss potential resolution or settlement terms prior to any hearing or trial. If the parties believe a conference with Judge Bowman would facilitate such resolutions, they should advise the Judge's staff in advance or the Court at the time the hearing or trial is called from the list.
- Any exhibit any party or counsel intends to use should have sufficient copies made in advance so that there is at least one copy for each counsel or unrepresented party plus one for the witness and one for the Court. For jury trials, counsel shall have enough copies of all exhibits they may want to be passed to the jury or go with them during deliberations, so that each juror and each alternate will have his/her own copy. Unless and until an exhibit is admitted into evidence, however, the contents thereof shall not be revealed to the trier of fact (Judge or Jury) except to the limited extent revealing it to the Judge is necessary for a decision on admissibility. Once admitted into evidence, in non-jury proceedings, the Judge will read all exhibits. Therefore, there is no need for any witness or counsel to read it to the Court.
- If any party or counsel plans to use any of the audio/visual or electronic equipment in the Courtroom, they are expected to contact the appropriate court personnel to assure that the equipment will be available in the courtroom on the date of trial. They also are expected to coordinate with court staff to assure that the equipment is working prior to the start of the proceeding.
- Counsel should exchange their lists of experts and the substance of their testimony prior to the beginning of any trial or hearing, or else risk having that expert barred from giving testimony. On critical issues, experts should be specifically asked if they hold their opinion to a reasonable degree of certainty within their field of expertise.
- Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law can be very helpful in non-jury trials. They should be submitted in writing and electronically in Microsoft Word format and sent via email to Judge Bowman’s Judicial Assistant. In addition, they should be filed with the Prothonotary.
The parties should follow the general Courtroom Procedures, and prior to presenting evidence at a De Novo Equitable Distribution Trial, counsel and/or the parties (where parties are unrepresented) must confer with one another to make a good faith effort to limit the scope of the trial, by entering into a written stipulation identifying all relevant facts which are agreed upon and identifying with specificity those issues of fact which have not been agreed upon.
The parties have already appeared before a Master and a Master’s Report has been issued which has identified most, if not all, of the assets, as well as various facts relevant to the Court’s final determination (i.e.: length of marriage, marital health of the parties, tax consequences, etc.). Counsel and the parties may wish to use that report to help them focus on the stipulation that they will jointly present to the Court. If at the beginning of the trial it appears that a good faith effort to complete the written stipulations has not been made, counsel and/or the parties will be sent to another room, on the day of the hearing, to begin working on the project, until the project is completed.
All documents that a party intends to offer into evidence in his or her case in chief must be identified and shown to the other party at the time of the pre-trial conference. The parties shall exchange and pre-mark each exhibit, and provide the Court, at the beginning of the trial, a list of all exhibits which have already been exchanged, together with a copy of all of those exhibits. In addition, the parties are to provide the Court with a written list of assets with identifying information concerning each asset in a format similar to the format used by the Master in the Master’s Report.
- Prior to selection of the jury, the attorneys must meet, review and exchange, and pre-mark all exhibits either side intends to use or reserves the right to use during the jury trial. This does not include an exhibit which would be used for impeachment only.
- Any document, exhibit, photo, etc., that counsel wishes to publish to the jury, must be shown to opposing counsel before it is published and the item must have an exhibit number. If counsel intends to use a poster board exhibit, counsel must supply the Court with a smaller version to be kept with the record as the exhibit. Nothing should be projected on a screen, visible to the jury, prior to opposing counsel reviewing same.
- Counsel should submit their proposed Voir Dire to the Court and opposing counsel no later than five (5) days before trial is scheduled. Counsel shall confer and make the Court aware of any objections to the other side’s proposed Voir Dire within three (3) days of trial.
- The Court generally uses the most recent version of the Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Civil Jury Instructions. If a party wishes to submit a jury instruction which is not part of the standard civil jury instructions, the submission should be accompanied with legal authority and an explanation of why the specific request is not adequately covered within the standard instructions. The parties should note that the Court tries to incorporate a cohesive final instruction and therefore each separate instruction needs to be located within an appropriate place in the overall charge to the jury.
- Objections should be made formally and counsel must be careful to not make any statements during an objection which could alert a witness to change their testimony or improperly influence the jury. The objections are directed to the Court and, where necessary and appropriate, counsel should promptly request a side bar.
- Objections made during a videotaped deposition, which cannot be resolved by the parties, and which require the Court’s ruling, must be brought to the Court’s attention as a pre-trial Motion before the trial begins. Prior to submitting an objection to the Court, the parties must confer with one another with respect to each objection and make a good faith effort to resolve the objections on their own before presenting the objections to the Court. Objections which a party wishes to preserve and which require a Court ruling should be identified in a written Motion which contains the basis of the objection, legal authority for same, and the suggested remedy (i.e.: delete lines 6 through 18 on page 4 of the transcript). The party opposing the objection should provide the Court with a written response, legal authority and, where appropriate, a suggested remedy (i.e.: delete lines 6 through 8 but leave lines 9 through 15 with a specific instruction to the jury explaining why the subject matter has limited relevance).
- Lawyers should remain civil one to the other throughout the proceeding and work in a cooperative fashion with the Court to avoid error.
- A charging conference will always be held prior to closing arguments in jury trials. Prior thereto, Plaintiff should have provided Defendant with Plaintiff’s proposed points for charge and Defendant should have reviewed same and provided Plaintiff with any additional points for charge Defendant seeks to have the Court provide to the jury. Additionally, the parties are expected to have conferred so that in advance of the first day of trial they can supply the Court with a list (by number) of the standard jury instructions (using the most recent version of the PA Suggested Standard Civil Jury Instructions) to which they both agree, as well as any other instructions one of parties seeks and to which the other has an objection. Additionally, if special or unusual issues or rules of law are at issue, written points should be submitted, with citations of authority.
- Prior to the first day of trial, Counsel is to consult with each other and to the greatest extent possible agree upon the Verdict Slip. Counsel shall provide an agreed upon Verdict Slip to the Court no later than on the morning of the last day of trial.
- All exceptions to the Court's charge must be placed on the record before the jury is dismissed for deliberations.
- The Court will consult with counsel concerning limits on the amount of time for opening and closing arguments/statement and will hold counsel to the time limit set.
- Although jury views are not encouraged, they may be done with advance arrangements by counsel with the Court when essential to a case. Highly detailed photographs are preferred and can prove just as informative.
- Side bar conferences should be infrequent and should be sought only when necessary.
- During jury deliberations, counsel shall let the tipstaff on duty know where they are, and shall be available, with their clients, to return to the Court on five (5) minutes notice.
- From the time the jury is selected until it is discharged, counsel shall avoid ALL forms of contact with the individual jurors and shall advise their parties and witnesses to do the same.
Should the Court request a proposed Order following a hearing or settlement conference in any type of matter, the proposed Order shall be submitted to Judge Bowman’s Chambers by email in Microsoft Word format by counsel for the parties as they shall determine or as the Court shall designate. Proposed Orders shall first be copied to all other counsel or unrepresented parties. If the proposed Order is by agreement, please confirm in the email accompanying the proposed Order that all parties have reviewed and are in agreement to that which is being submitted. Kindly be timely in your submission of any proposed Order so that the Court’s Judicial Assistant is not required to follow up after the deadline for submission has passed.
- You should contact the Court Reporter involved with the hearing directly to make any requests for transcripts. Please get the name of the Court Reporter in any case from them at the time of the hearing. If you need a transcript and you do not have the name of the Court Reporter, you should review the Court sheet in the file to obtain it. If there is no Court sheet, you can contact Judge Bowman’s Judicial Assistant to obtain it. You will need to provide the date and location of the hearing.
- A transcript is not considered ordered until you contact the Court Reporter directly, submit the appropriate Transcript Request Form, and make any payment arrangements required.
- All requests for transcripts shall comply with all state and local rules regarding transcripts.