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Cabell, Donald L.

Born 1960 in Mount Clemens, Michigan

Federal Judicial Service
Magistrate Judge, U. S. District Court, District of Massachusetts

First appointed to the Court January 21, 2015.

University of Massachusetts/Amherst, cum laude, B.A., 1986
Northeastern University School of Law, J.D., 1991

Judicial Assistant  
Clerk's Office
Docket Clerk
Noreen Russo 617-748-9233

Courtroom Technology
Contact the courtroom clerk regarding use of this equipment.

The courtroom is equipped with a 50" plasma monitor cart that contains a VCR/DVD combo unit for video playback. In addition, there is a document camera in each courtroom that can connect to the same monitor for displaying physical evidence. If the evidence is electronic, the computer can either be chained into the system through the document camera, or connected directly by removing the document camera. Portable video conferencing equipment can be brought in upon request for remote appearances.

Internet access is available upon request and with the consent of the presiding Judge. Click here for more information.

Chambers Procedures/Standing Orders/Sample Orders


USDC Judicial Forum Survey

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    Civil - Case Management

  • DLC Q1: Do you have any specific scheduling order or any particular topics that counsel must address in the joint statement in addition to/or in lieu of the topics required to be addressed under Local Rule 16.1(D) for the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A1: No.
  • DLC Q2: If you have a specific scheduling order, please attach your order.
  • DLC A2: Respondent skipped this question.
  • DLC Q3: Do you have any additional requirement(s) as to the attorneys' obligation that they confer with their client(s) about case budget and ADR pursuant to Local Rule 16.1(D)(3)?
  • DLC A3: No
  • DLC Q4: What, if any, inquiries do you make about settlement prospects and/or interest in mediation at the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A4: I make sure the parties are aware of the court's mediation resources, and will ask them whether they have considered mediation as an option if the joint memorandum they submit prior to the scheduling conference does not address it.
  • DLC Q5: What, if any inquiries do you make about the liklihood of trial at the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A5: None.
  • DLC Q6: What schedule do you set at the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A6: We set a schedule for all significant phases of discovery, including automatic disclosures, written discovery, fact discovery, and expert disclosures and depositions. We also set dates for the briefing of dispositive motions.
  • DLC Q7: After the initial scheduling conference, do you hold status conferences?
  • DLC A7: Yes.
  • DLC Q8: If so, when do you hold status conferences?
  • DLC A8: After the initial scheduling conference, I typically hold a status conference before the end of fact discovery.
  • DLC Q9: If so, what issues do you address at status conferences?
  • DLC A9: We use the conference to assess the status of the case, whether discovery is complete, whether the parties have made attempts to settle the case, and whether the parties wish to go to mediation prior to the filing of dispositive motions.
  • Civil - Discovery

  • DLC Q10: Other than the requirements under Local Rule 16.1(D) for addressing certain discovery topics in the parties' joint statement, what, if any, discovery issues do you like counsel to be prepared to address at the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A10: None.
  • DLC Q11: What, if any, issues related to electronically stored information should counsel be prepared to address at the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A11: Counsel should be prepared to discuss generally the estimated amount of ESI at issue, and what discussions if any they have had regarding the establishment of a protocol for the handling of ESI.
  • DLC Q12: If the parties intend to file a proposed protective order, do you require any particular format and/or a specific time for doing so?
  • DLC A12: I do not require a particular format but do urge the parties to file one as soon as practicable and as close to the outset of the discovery process as possible.
  • DLC Q13: Under what circumstances would you consider a bifurcation of discovery ?
  • DLC A13: Bifurcation of discovery is appropriate where there is, objectively speaking, a genuine question as to liability, or as to whether the plaintiff has identified the correct entity as defendant. In those instances I urge the parties to first conduct limited discovery to resolve these fundamental issues before focusing on damages or other aspects of the case.
  • DLC Q14: Given the new requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) regarding the proportionality of the scope of discovery, what, if any inquiry do you make about this issue at the initial scheduling conference?
  • DLC A14: I don't make a specific inquiry per se because counsel usually have not exchanged discovery, let alone written discovery requests, by the time of the initial scheduling conference, and true concerns about proportionality usually do not arise until later in the case. That being said, I ask each party at the conference to comment on the both the scope and type of discovery they preliminarily intend to seek, so that counsel can begin to think about the issue.
  • DLC Q15: Other than the requirement that the parties confer in good faith to narrow the issues before filing any discovery motion under Local Rule 37.1(A), what, if any, additional requirements do you make of counsel before considering discovery motions?
  • DLC A15: Under our standing order, parties must first contact the courtroom deputy clerk, typically by e-mail, to summarize what the discovery issue is. We then will convene a telephone conference with the goal of helping the parties to narrow or resolve the issue. If the telephone conference is not successful, only then will the party be authorized to file a discovery motion.
  • DLC Q16: Do you typically hold hearing on discovery motions?
  • DLC A16: Yes.
  • DLC Q17: Please describe your general practice regarding the resolution of disovery motions.
  • DLC A17: If the legal issue is clear, that is, the law favors one party's position, I rule accordingly. If the issue is more nebulous, or if it relates to concerns that a request is perhaps overly broad, or too vague, or onerous, I try to use the hearing on the discovery motion as a working meeting, and will ideally work through and reach resolution on each issue. As such, we can usually issue an oral order on the motion from the bench, and will follow it up with an electronic order summarizing the rulings on each issue.
  • DLC Q18: Under what circumstances will you consider emergency motions regarding discovery matters?
  • DLC A18: I am most likely to consider an emergency motion where the dispute concerns an event that is scheduled to occur imminently, or where it is necessary to resolve the discovery matter first so that other contemplated discovery can take place, e.g., where a party claims they must first obtain certain records before being able to depose a particular person.
  • DLC Q19: Do you have any particular practices or requirements about expert disclosures?
  • DLC A19: No.
  • DLC Q20: What, if any, expert discovery deadlines do you set at the initial scheduling conference? When do you typically set a schedule for the filing of Daubert motions?
  • DLC A20: Parties are required to submit a proposed discovery plan prior to the scheduling conference which includes expert discovery deadlines. As long as it is agreed-to and reasonable, I generally endorse the proposed plan. I do not typically set a schedule for the filing of Daubert motions.
  • DLC Q21: If the case involves a pro se litigant, do you typically have any different practices in regard to scheduling conferences, status conferences or discovery matters?
  • DLC A21: With respect to the scheduling conference, I do look at the parties' proposed plan to satisfy myself that it appears to be fair to both parties, but I otherwise do not handle conferences or discovery matters any differently. That being said, I do inform pro se litigants that they are expected to comply with all pertinent federal and local rules, and try to be mindful to make sure that whatever I say or write is clear to all.
  • Civil - Dispositive Motions

  • DLC Q22: Other than the presumptive pages limits for memoranda under Rule 7.1(b), do you have any other requirements or preferences about the filing of dispositive motions?
  • DLC A22: No. I do find that counsel quasi-regularly exceed the presumptive page limits. Because those additional pages rarely add substantial, additional value, I am most keen on encouraging parties to adhere to the imposed page limits.
  • DLC Q23: In connection with dispositive motions, do you require the filing of any courtesy copies of exhibits, depositions and/or other materials in addition to the electronic versions that are filed on ECF?
  • DLC A23: Yes, We do not require courtesy copies as a matter of course but do request them in cases where the submissions are voluminous.
  • DLC Q24: Do you typically allow reply briefs and/or surreply briefs?
  • DLC A24: Yes, As long as there is some basis to believe the reply or surreply will be helpful, I am inclined to grant leave for their submission.
  • DLC Q25: If you allow reply and/or surreply briefs, do you impose a page limit?
  • DLC A25: Yes, 7 pages.
  • DLC Q26: Do you typically hold a hearing on motions to dismiss?
  • DLC A26: Yes.
  • DLC Q27: Do you typically hold a hearing on summary judgment motions?
  • DLC A27: Yes.
  • DLC Q28: If you typically hold hearings on dispositive motions, what, if any, time limits do you impose on counsel for their arguments?
  • DLC A28: I do not set hard limits going into a hearing. I have in mind that 30 minutes per side is sufficient but common sense ultimately controls what limits will be placed.
  • DLC Q29: Under what, if any, circumstances, would you allow the filing of post-argument briefs?
  • DLC A29: If we still have questions on a particular point, or if the oral argument raises questions that were unanticipated and thus not addressed in the original briefs, a post-argument brief targeting the specific question(s) is usually helpful.
  • Civil - Patent Cases

  • DLC Q30: Do you have any standing order and/or any particular practice regarding the management of patent cases? If so, please describe them.
  • DLC A30: No.
  • DLC Q31: If applicable, please upload your standing order regarding the management of patent cases.
  • DLC A31: Respondent skipped this question
  • DLC Q32: Do you have particular practice about Markman hearings? If so, please describe them including but not limited to whether you allow tutorial(s).
  • DLC A32: I do not have a particular practice as of yet but do find tutorials to be very helpful, and encourage them.

    Civil Mediation

  • DLC Q33: If you have any particular practices or preferences in regard to submissions before a mediation, please describe them.
  • DLC A33: Each party is required to submit a confidential memorandum of five pages or less addressing various issues. Parties may also submit any key exhibits but the impetus for doing so should be the desire to help the court to better understand the case rather than to prevail on a dispositive motion.
  • DLC Q34: Do you have a standard pre-mediation order for the parties? If so, please attache it here.
  • DLC A34: Notice of and Order with Respect to Mediation
  • DLC Q35: If you have any particular practices or preferences in regard to conducting a mediation, please describe them here.
  • DLC A35: I begin the mediation with all present and ask everyone to introduce themselves. After explaining how the session will proceed, and before moving on to the individual caucuses, I invite counsel, if they wish, to make introductory, nonargumentative comments. Counsel sometimes find this opportunity to be helpful to set a positive tone at the outset, especially where the parties have not spoken for some time.
  • DLC Q36: Do you require the party/parties to be present or available during a mediation?
  • DLC A36: Yes, a party with decision making authority must be available by phone. I strongly prefer that those with decision making authority be present. I recognize that that is not always possible and thus will allow a party to participate by phone.

    Criminal Matters

  • DLC Q37: Other than the requirements under Local Rule 116.5, what, if any, practices do you have in regard to status conferences in criminal cases?
  • DLC A37: The Local Rules require the submission of a joint status memorandum seven days before a status conference. Many memos, aside from being somewhat bare in terms of the required content, are filed on the eve of the status conference, or not at all. To encourage greater compliance, we issue an order as soon as the memorandum is late, requiring the parties to submit a responsive memorandum by the close of business that day.
  • DLC Q38: Typically, at what point, will you refer a criminal case back to the district judge?
  • DLC A38: I typically refer the case back to the district judge when discovery is complete and the defendant has either filed any and all dispositive motions, or filing deadlines have been established.
  • DLC Q39: Do you have any particular practices as to scheduling in criminal cases? If so, please describe them.
  • DLC A39: In smaller cases, such as an immigration case involving a single defendant charged with unlawful reentry, I try to schedule the initial and final status conferences no more than 30 and 60 days from arraignment, respectively.
  • General Trial Practice - Pretrial Matters

  • DLC Q40: Do you require the filing of a trial brief?
  • DLC A40: No.
  • DLC Q41: If you do not require the filing of a trial brief, under what circumstances do you think it would be helpful to the Court?
  • DLC A41: A trial brief is helpful to flag notable issues, such as a complex evidentiary issue that is anticipated to arise at trial, or to help the court understand a party's legal theory and how the evidence presented is going to support it.
  • DLC Q42: Do you typically hold an initial pretrial conference in civil cases?
  • DLC A42: Yes, counsel should be prepared to discuss anticipated legal and evidentiary issues, stipulations, number of witnesses, estimated length of trial.
  • DLC Q43: When do you set a deadline for the filing of proposed voir dire, proposed jury instructions and/or special verdict form, witness and exhibits lists, motions in limine? Typically, how far in advance of trial are these deadlines?
  • DLC A43: I have no firm practice as of yet.
  • DLC Q44: Do you require that proposed voir dire, verdict forms and/or jury instructions be filed in any particular form (i.e., courtesy electronic copy to your deputy clerk in Word or WordPerfect format, etc.)? Describe your practice.
  • DLC A44: I have no firm practice as of yet.
  • DLC Q45: Do you set a page limit for motions in limine? If so, what is it?
  • DLC A45: No.
  • DLC Q46: Do you typically hear motions in limine at the final pretrial conference?
  • DLC A46: I have no firm practice as of yet.
  • DLC Q47: Do you typically resolve motions in limine at the final pretrial conference?
  • DLC A47: I have no firm practice as of yet.
  • DLC Q48: Do you typically hear and/or resolve Daubert motions at the final pretrial conference?
  • DLC A48: I have no firm practice as of yet.
  • DLC Q49: Do you require the parties to provide a courtesy copy of trial exhibits to the Court before trial?
  • DLC A49: Yes.
  • DLC Q50: If courtesy copies of trial exhibits are required, when do you require them?
  • DLC A50: As soon as practicable.
  • DLC Q51: If courtesy copies of trial exhibits are required, what particular form is required?
  • DLC A51: I require the courtesy copies to be placed in a binder.
  • DLC Q52: Do you require trial exhibits to be pre-marked? If so, please describe your practice?
  • DLC A52: No.
  • General Trial Practice - Scheduling Trials

  • DLC Q53: Typically, when do you set a trial date in civil cases?
  • DLC A53: I convene a status conference at the end of fact discovery and set the trial date at that point.
  • DLC Q54: What is your typical trial schedule?
  • DLC A54: My intention is to go from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on days when evidence is presented, and 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM once deliberations begin.
  • DLC Q55: In civil cases, do you set time limits for counsel for opening statements, the presentation of evidence and/or closing arguments? If so, please describe your practice?
  • DLC A55: I have no firm practice as of yet.
  • General Trial Practice - Jury Selection

  • DLC Q56: Please describe your jury selection process.
  • DLC A56: I ask general questions of the entire prospective pool to identify those who may have issues sitting as an impartial juror. I then, with counsel, conduct an inquiry of each juror who responded and make any excusals for cause. I then fill the jury box, usually by calling jurors in the order they appear on the list. Plaintiff then exercises peremptory challenges to those in the box, followed by defendant. After the box is refilled, the order is changed and defendant goes first with respect to challenges. Back strikes are not permitted.
  • DLC Q57: Under what circumstances, if any, have you or would you consider using a juror questionnaire?
  • DLC A57: I have not yet established a practice with respect to the use of a juror questionnaire.
  • DLC Q58: If you would consider the use of a jury questionnaire, when and in what form should it be proposed?
  • DLC A58: I have not yet established a practice with respect to the use of a juror questionnaire.
  • DLC Q59: Have you or would you consider allowing attorney voir dire?
  • DLC A59: Yes, although I would consider allowing attorney voir dire, I have no firm practice as of yet, and would not expect to allow it as a matter of course.
  • DLC Q60: In civil trials, typically what number of jurors do you seat?
  • DLC A60: 6.
  • General Trial Practice - Trial Practices

  • DLC Q61: Do you require counsel to use the podium during openings, examination of witnesses and/or closings?
  • DLC A61: No.
  • DLC Q62: How many rounds of examination do you typically allow?
  • DLC A62: Direct & Cross, Redirect, Recross
  • DLC Q63: Under what, if any, circumstances, will you allow a rebuttal case?
  • DLC A63: Unsure.
  • DLC Q64: Do you have any preferences about the use of chalks during openings and closings?
  • DLC A64: I have no opposition to the use of chalks. With respect to use of chalks during the opening, I would expect counsel to show the chalk to opposing counsel ahead of time.
  • DLC Q65: Do you have any particular practice in regard to jury charge conferences? If so, please describe it.
  • DLC A65: I presently have no particular practice regarding jury charge conferences.
  • DLC Q66: Do you provide a written copy of your jury charge to the jury?
  • DLC A66: I have not yet established a firm practice with respect to this issue.
  • DLC Q67: Will you consider counsel's proposals of a special verdict form? If so, should it be in any particular format?
  • DLC A67: I would consider a proposal to use a special verdict form but as yet have no preference for a particular format.
  • DLC Q68: If you have any preferences or practices about pretrial or trial matters that has not been solicited by the prior questions, please describe them here.
  • DLC A68: Respondent skipped this question.
  • DLC Q69: If you have any particular practices as to bench trials, please describe them.
  • DLC A69: Respondent skipped this question.
  • Standing Orders & Miscellaneous Matters

  • DLC Q70: If your session has any standing orders, please attach them here.
  • DLC A70: Scheduling and Instruction Order Sample
  • DLC Q71: Order #2
  • DLC A71: Respondent skipped this question.
  • DLC Q72: Order #3
  • DLC A72: Respondent skipped this question.
  • DLC Q73: If there is any other guidance about your court practices and preferences that you would like to share with counsel that has not been solicited by any of the prior questions, please provide it here.
  • DLC A73: When in doubt, ask.

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