United States District Court, S.D. New York
February 11, 2015
YAINA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
A & E TELEVISION NETWORK, et al., Defendants
For Yaina Williams, Plaintiff: Tonya Shy, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Granville/Shy, LLC, Atlanta, GA.
For A& E Televisions Networks, Lifetime Entertainment Services, FYI Television Network, Defendants: Bradley Howard Ellis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Amanda Victoria Lopez, Lauren Marie De Lilly, Sidley Austin LLP(CA), Los Angeles, CA; David William Denton, Jr., Sidley Austin LLP, Houston, TX.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
P. Kevin Castel, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff's counsel seeks to dispense with a personal appearance at the initial pretrial conference in this copyright infringement action arising from the reality television series Married at First Sight and proceed, instead, via telephone (Doc 13). Counsel also requests to move the date of the conference (Doc 7).
The Court will move the date of the initial conference to a more convenient date but will not dispense with the requirement of the personal presence of at least one attorney representing the plaintiff. An initial conference is more than a scheduling conference. The court gains an understanding of the contentions of the parties, the scope of appropriate discovery, the likely course of the litigation, including possible future motions, and the possible paths to settlement. Rule 16(c)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P., helpfully lists a host of matters which are fair game for discussion. Stipulations and agreements reached at such a conference may avoid the need for discovery on an issue. Sometimes an agreement reached at the conference to permit a simple amendment of the pleadings, or the withdrawal of a claim or defense, avoids motion practice. The conference is also the opportunity for opposing counsel to meet face-to-face to begin to build a rapport that enables them to represent their clients while promoting a just, speedy and inexpensive resolution of the dispute.
Telephonic conferences have a useful place in federal litigation. They are quite effective for a brief status update or the resolution of a discovery dispute arising, for example, in the course of a deposition where an instantaneous answer is important. Some judges prefer them to other means of communication with the Court and use them frequently and successfully.
The circumstance that the plaintiff elected to bring this claim in this district utilizing an attorney whose office, per the attorney's letter of February 10, 2015, is 865 miles from the Courthouse, is not a reason to dispense with the undersigned's practice of requiring a personal appearance. This Court is most welcoming of attorneys who are admitted pro hac vice and indeed there are attorneys representing defendants in this action who are so admitted. Attorneys who are admitted pro hac vice have no greater or lesser rights than those who are members of the bar of this Court. The Court would not permit an attorney whose office is in this district to dispense with an appearance before the Court because he or she prefers working from a suburban home or because Tuesdays are not the scheduled day to be in the office.
It would be a sad day if federal practice devolves to the point where opposing counsel in a case never meet one another or the judge before whom the client's case is pending. Foreseeable consequences would include the coarsening of interactions between counsel and the proliferation of misunderstandings. The undersigned does not intend to hasten such a trend.
Letter Motion to dispense with personal appearance (Doc 13) is DENIED. Letter Motion to adjourn conference (Doc 7) is GRANTED and the conference is adjourned from February 18, 2015 to March 19, 2015 at 3 p.m.