Federal Legal Procedure: The Local Rules and Chambers Rules Matter!

If you have had to file documents or had a hearing scheduled in any of the U.S. District Courts in California, then you probably know that not all of the four district courts are the same. Each district court, in addition to observing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, has its own set of rules which must be followed, as well as chamber rules. Those rules can differ significantly.

It’s easy to get comfortable with the district court you file/work in most often and assume that other district courts do things the same way. But that can often be an erroneous assumption. For example, in the Central District, Northern District, and Southern District, any brief or memorandum that exceeds 10 pages must include a table of contents and a table of authorities. That’s easy to remember, as the superior courts in California also have this same requirement. However, the Eastern District’s local rules state that any brief or memorandum that exceeds 15 pages must include a table of contents and table of authorities (LR 133(k)).  

While the U.S.D.C. Southern District does not list any specific requirements in its local rules regarding courtesy/chamber copies, the other three district courts’ local rules do address this requirement. It would be easy to assume, based on the absence of information in the Southern District’s local rules, that chambers or courtesy copies are not required. However, in the chambers rules for several of the magistrate and district court judges in the Southern District, there are specific provisions and requirements regarding chambers/courtesy copies.

The rules regarding motions in the district courts are another area where the requirements vary. Eastern District Local Rule 30 states that motions shall be set for hearing on the motion calendar not less than 35 days after personal service and filing of the motion or 38 days after service by mail. Oppositions to motions are to be filed with the court not less than 14 days by personal service or 17 days by U.S. Mail, prior to the hearing date. Replies to motions shall be filed and served no later than 10 days preceding the date of hearing.

The Central District’s requirements regarding motions can be found under Local Rule 7 and states that the notice of motion and supporting documents shall be filed with the Clerk not later than 28 days before the date set for hearing. The opposition is due not less than 10 calendar days after service of the motion in the instance of a new trial motion, and 21 calendar days before the hearing in all other instances. The moving party may file a reply not less than 14 calendar days before the hearing.

The Southern District’s local rules concerning motions are similar to the Central District’s. However, the Southern District makes a special provision in Local Rule 7.1 regarding oral argument stating that “The moving party may indicate a willingness to decide a motion without oral argument by including the statement ‘Oral Argument Not Required’ on the title page of the reply brief below the hearing date and time.”

As demonstrated above, the differences and particulars of each district court’s local rules and chamber rules matter and can have a huge impact on your case. Be sure you don’t get caught unaware!


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