Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV

Born 1955 in Royal Oak, MI

Federal Judicial Service

Judge, U. S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, Chief Judge, 2019 - Present.

Nominated by George W. Bush on July 30, 2003, to a seat vacated by Robert E. Keeton; Confirmed by the Senate on June 1, 2004, and received commission on June 2, 2004.


Northwestern University, B.S., 1977
Harvard Law School, J.D., 1981


Boston Courthouse

John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse
1 Courthouse Way, Suite 2300
Boston, Massachusetts 02210


10, 5th floor

John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse - Boston, MA
John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse - Boston, MA

Courtroom Technology

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Judicial Assistant Julie Piltzecker    
Courtroom Clerk Matthew McKillop 617-748-9212
Docket Clerk Flaviana de Oliveira 617-748-9178
Court Reporter Valerie O'Hara
USDC Judicial Forum Survey

Civil - Case Management

Q4: What, if any, inquiries do you make about settlement prospects and/or interest in mediation at the initial scheduling conference?

A4: I inquire about their interest, if any, in mediation, or whether mediation is premature or unnecessary. I also advise the parties, in substance, that I will refer the case for mediation only if both sides agree; that I will not force any party into mediation or settlement discussions; that I will be supportive of settlement efforts; and that if the parties are not going to settle the case, I expect them to litigate it.

Q6: What schedule do you set at the initial scheduling conference?

A6: Fact discovery, expert discovery, amendment of the pleadings, motion practice (including dispositive motions) and further status conferences.

Q8: If so, when do you hold status conferences?

A8: At a minimum, I hold a status conference after the close of fact discovery. In most cases, I will set an interim status conference about two-thirds of the way through the fact discovery period. I will also set conferences as appropriate during expert discovery and in the run-up to trial. In very complicated cases, I will set a status conference every month.

Q9: If so, what issues do you address at status conferences?

A9: The progress of the case, including discovery efforts; whether there are any issues that can be resolved relatively informally; whether the schedule needs modification; whether both sides are interested in mediation; whether there are any other case management issues that the parties wish to raise.

Civil - Discovery

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?

A10: Whether expert testimony is likely to be necessary. If it seems unlikely, I will issue a scheduling order that does not provide for expert discovery, but with a deadline for filing a notice of an intent to call an expert. If such a notice is filed, I will reset the calendar and provide for expert discovery.

Q11: What, if any, issues related to electronically stored information should counsel be prepared to address at the initial scheduling conference?

A11: They should have discussed the issue with each other. I don't normally address ESI issues unless there is a dispute.

Q13: Under what circumstances would you consider a bifurcation of discovery ?

A13: If the parties agree to it. Otherwise, I will order it as appropriate, but with some caution, as it may create more problems than it solves.

Q17: Do you typically hold a hearing on discovery?

A17: Yes, If I keep the motion, I will normally hold a hearing. As a practical matter, such issues may be resolved in the course of status conferences.

Q18: Please describe your general practice regarding the resolution of discovery motions.

A18: I typically refer them to the magistrate judge. Otherwise, I read the papers, listen to both sides, and try to make a fair ruling.

Q20: Do you have any particular practices or requirements about expert disclosures?

A20: Other than the procedure described in response to Question 10, no.

Q21: 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?

A21:I will normally set deadlines for expert disclosures and depositions at the scheduling conference. I normally set deadlines for the filing of Daubert motions at a later point in the proceedings, typically during a subsequent status conference when counsel alerts me to the issue. Ideally, Daubert hearings will take place after the close of expert discovery but well in advance of the trial.

Q22: 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?

A22: I sometimes hold conferences more frequently, to try to make sure the case is staying on track. If the case involves a prisoner plaintiff, I normally dispense with the requirement to meet and confer on motions. I will normally have the prisoner appear by video link for court conferences.

Civil - Dispositive Motions

Q25: Do you typically allow reply briefs and/or surreply briefs?

A25: Yes, reply brief, almost always; surreply briefs, usually upon request unless there is a compelling reason not to.

Q26: If you allow reply and/or surreply briefs, do you impose a page limit?

A26: Yes, my default page limit is 12 pages; I will permit more upon a showing of good cause.

Q30: Under what, if any, circumstances, would you allow the filing of post-argument briefs?

A30: In any case where it appears that they may be helpful; for example, where the hearing has raised issues that may not have been fully developed by the parties.

Civil - Patent Cases

Q33: Do you have particular practice about Markman hearings? If so, please describe them including but not limited to whether you allow tutorial(s).

A33: No. I will usually ask the parties whether they anticipate the taking of testimony, and whether they intend to present a tutorial. I am generally in favor of tutorials in all but the simplest cases.

Criminal Matters

Q35: Do you have any particular practices as to scheduling in criminal cases? If so, please describe them.

A35: In a typical case, once the matter has been referred back to me from the magistrate judge, I see the parties no less frequently than every 30 days until the defendant has decided to plead or go to trial. If the defendant advises me that he intends to go to trial, I will try to set the trial date at that conference.

Q36: If a defendant files a motion for release and/or modification of conditions of release after the case has been referred back to the district judge, is it your typical practice to resolve the motion or refer it back to the magistrate judge?

A36 :I refer it to the magistrate judge. If the matter involves additional evidence or changed circumstances, I will normally refer it back. If it is an appeal, of course, I will keep it.

General Trial Practice - Pretrial Matters

Q39: Do you require the filing of a trial brief?

A39: In civil cases, I require the joint pretrial memorandum under our local rules; I do not require anything else except in unusual circumstances.

Q40: If you do not require the filing of a trial brief, under what circumstances do you think it would be helpful to the Court?

A40: If the case is complex, or there are issues that I may not otherwise fully understand.

Q42: Do you typically hold an initial pretrial conference in civil cases?

A42: Yes, as in criminal cases, I go through a checklist of logistical issues, such as the daily schedule, display of evidence, empanelment process, and so on.

Q48: Do you typically hear and/or resolve Daubert motions at the final pretrial conference?

A48: Typically, they are resolved well in advance of the final pretrial conference.

Q50: If courtesy copies of trial exhibits are required, when do you require them?

A50: I don't require courtesy copies, but I strongly prefer them. I would like to have them no later than the morning of the first day of trial.

Q52: Do you require trial exhibits to be pre-marked? If so, please describe your practice?

A52: Yes, every exhibit should have a unique number (for example, Exhibit 13). No letters should be used. There should be only "exhibits," not plaintiff's exhibits and defendant's exhibits. Exhibits can be grouped and marked separately using decimals (for example, Exhibit 13 might be a group of photographs, marked separately as 13.1, 13.2, etc.). Exhibit numbers will not change, even if the document is excluded or not offered. I do not care if the exhibits are offered in numerical sequence, and I do not care if there are gaps in the sequence.

Criminal - Scheduling Trials

Q53: Typically, when do you set a trial date in criminal cases?

A53: During a status conference if the defendant indicates he wants to go to trial.

Q54: Typically, when do you set a trial date in civil cases?

A54: After the filing of the joint pretrial memorandum, in which the parties have estimated the length of the trial.

Q55: What is your typical trial schedule?

A55: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. sharp. Either two short breaks at 10:30 and noon, or one at 11:00.

Criminal - Jury Selection

Q57: Please describe your jury selection process.

A57: Voir dire questions asked by the court to the entire panel; prospective jurors raise their hands as appropriate and are examined one-by-one at sidebar. The court strikes jurors for cause as appropriate. Once voir dire is completed, if twelve jurors and two alternates are to be empaneled, the first fourteen names remaining on the list will be called and those prospective jurors seated in the jury box. The court then conducts a limited further inquiry to obtain missing information and find out about prior jury service. Peremptory challenges are then exercised at sidebar, one by one, in alternating rounds (for example, the government or plaintiff goes first in the first round, the defendant goes first in the second round, etc.). No back strikes are permitted. In criminal cases with fourteen jurors, the last two jurors seated are the alternates, regardless of their seat numbers. They are not advised that they are alternates until immediately before deliberation.

Q58: Under what circumstances, if any, have you or would you consider using a juror questionnaire?

A58: Only in exceptional circumstances, such as a case with a great deal of pretrial publicity or one otherwise presenting unusually difficult empanelment issues.

Q60: Have you or would you consider allowing attorney voir dire?

A60: Yes, I permit attorneys to ask polite, respectful questions of individual jurors at sidebar on discrete issues, usually to follow up on an issue that they may feel I have not explored thoroughly enough.

General Trial Practice - Trial Practices

Q66: Do you have any preferences about the use of chalks during openings and closings?

A66: I strongly prefer the use of demonstratives, assuming of course that they are fair and reflect the evidence.

Q67: Do you have any particular practice in regard to jury charge conferences? If so, please describe it.

A67: I typically circulate draft versions of my written jury charge during the trial, which results as a practical matter in a "rolling" charge conference as counsel raise particular issues. The final charge conference is normally in the afternoon of the day before the closing arguments.

Q70: 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.

A70: 1. I provide each individual juror with a written copy of the charge, on which they are permitted to write, and which they can take with them into the jury room. 2. Counsel will have a final copy of the jury charge before their arguments, which they are permitted to quote verbatim as necessary to frame the issues. 3. The order of closings in civil cases is (1) plaintiff (2) defendant (3) plaintiff rebuttal.

Criminal - Sentencing/Revocation Hearings

Q73: If you do not require a sentencing memorandum in every case, when would it be helpful to you?

A73: Whenever counsel wants to call points to my attention that may not be obvious from a review of the PSR.

Q74: Under what, if any, circumstances, would you consider an expedited sentencing?

A74: Normally, when necessary and appropriate to ensure that a defendant is not incarcerated for an unduly long period of time.

Q76: Under what, if any circumstances, would you consider the postponement of a sentencing hearing?

A76: Normally, I will grant short extensions to accommodate the schedules of counsel (or, occasionally, family members or victims). I will grant longer extensions in clearly-defined circumstances, such as when a defendant is in the RISE program or is cooperating with the government. I will not grant postponements as a form of informal probation.

Standing Orders & Miscellaneous Matters

Post-Pandemic Practices

Q82: As of Fall 2022, are there any case events that you routinely conduct via Zoom in civil cases? If so, what are they?

A82: I normally conduct motion hearings in civil cases by Zoom if either counsel is from out of state or has to travel a considerable distance to the courthouse. Most status conferences in civil cases are by telephone, although I normally hold status conferences in complex or multi-party cases by Zoom.

Q83: As of Fall 2022, are there any case events that you routinely conduct via Zoom in criminal cases? If so, what are they?

A83: Status conferences. I continue to conduct some charges of plea by video when there is a good reason to do so, but in-court appearances are preferred.