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Q&A with Judge Catherine L. Heise, Wayne County Circuit Court

By Max H. Matthies posted 07-10-2023 11:10


Hon. Catherine L. Heise has been a judge for the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County since her appointment on April 10, 2014. An experienced trial lawyer, Judge Heise served as a case evaluator with the Mediation Tribunal Association and was a member of the council of the Insurance and Indemnity Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. She earned the designation of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter in 2013 and has authored several published articles on insurance-related issues. Judge Heise served as a councilwoman in the city of Dearborn Heights from 2003-2006. She also served on the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery from 2012-2014 and chaired the disciplinary subcommittee in 2014 until her appointment to the bench. Judge Heise earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Wayne State University and earned her juris doctor, cum laude, from the Detroit College of Law.

For attorneys who have never been to your court, what is your check-in process? 

Attorneys can Zoom in, and they will be checked in by the court clerk. If parties appear in person, the clerk will also check them in. 

When is your motion call? Are there a maximum number of motions heard during motion call?

The general motion call is on Friday at 9:30. About 30 motions is the maximum for a Friday. Motions for summary disposition are heard on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, beginning at 9:30. The maximum number of summary dispositions on any given day is about five. 

Should proposed orders be submitted to the clerk before argument? 

It is not necessary to submit proposed orders before oral argument. The order can be submitted by a party after oral argument and a ruling.

How should stipulated orders be submitted? 

Like almost everything else, stipulated orders should be e-filed.

What types of pretrial conferences do you hold and what happens at them?

I conduct settlement conferences after case evaluation and/or facilitation, and I conduct a final pretrial if a case is heading to trial. At a final pretrial, I inquire whether resolution is impossible and whether the parties and their witnesses are prepared. I am available to the parties pretty much anytime if there is some assistance that I can offer. 

What types of matters/motions are held via Zoom and which are held in person?

Everything is held via Zoom at this time except trials and possibly final pretrials. Parties are always welcome to request to come in for an in-person hearing. The court building is open!

What are some components of an argument (either in a brief or oral argument) that you find compelling or persuasive?

Because of the volume of motions that I hear every day, I rely heavily on written submissions. I read the entire motion and any exhibits, along with the response and reply. During oral argument, I ask the parties if there is anything they would like to add to their written submissions. Because I have prepared my docket before getting on the bench, I appreciate thorough briefs and attachments. 

What procedural issues/disputes should be worked out between the parties before involving you?

I have found that the attorneys work well together and only involve me when there’s a problem or procedural issue that they cannot work out between themselves. I’m gratified at the collegiality that is on display every day. 

What are some common mistakes lawyers make in your courtroom either while appearing in person or remotely?

The most common “misstep” is believing that just because you are “covering” for another attorney, you are not responsible for answering questions about the status of a case. If you have a bar number and you’re in court, it’s your case, and you need to know it!

What do you think is the most commonly misinterpreted court rule or rule of evidence? 

A commonly misunderstood court rule is MCR 2.116(C)(10) and (G)(4). Documents attached for, or in opposition to, a summary disposition motion need to be admissible or “substantively admissible.” 

What do you do that “feeds,” “restores,” or “motivates” you off the bench?

Off the bench, I enjoy spending time with my family and pursuing my interests in music, theology, and various forms of needlework. 

Is there anything else you would like Michigan lawyers to know?

I am proud to be a member of this profession, and I appreciate the hard work and diligence displayed every day by fellow members of the bar.