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Q&A with Judge Amanda J. Shelton, 6th Judicial Circuit Court (Oakland County)

By Max H. Matthies posted 12-05-2023 16:58


Hon. Amanda J. Shelton was elected to the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in November 2022 and was assigned to the family division. Prior to being elected, Judge Shelton practiced law for 18 years (2004-2022). Judge Shelton is a member of several professional organizations.

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

For matters on Zoom, attorneys need to identify themselves by name and case number. Attorneys need to make sure their clients properly identify themselves as well. We get many folks showing up as “iPad,” “Samsung”, etc. For motion call, the court schedules motions in 15-minute blocks, so it is important that both counsel and litigants are logged in on time. The court works diligently to call cases on time.  

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

Motion call is every Wednesday beginning at 8:30 a.m. Any case dealing with parenting time, change of custody, or support will be triaged by FOC prior to the court hearing the motion. This means that FOC will triage the matter the week the motion is filed. If the matter is not resolved, the court will hear the motion the following week during motion call. The court will not typically hear motions the same day as the FOC triage, absent a true emergency.

Should proposed orders be submitted to the clerk before argument? Do you expect orders to be drafted in court, and, if so, are there computers for drafting them?

Proposed orders should be submitted through the MiFILE system with a motion or notice of presentment. The proposed order should be submitted as an exhibit to the motion and a separate order (please do not write “proposed” on it). In addition, attorneys should send an MS Word version of the proposed order to my judicial staff attorney at least three days prior to the motion being heard.

How should stipulated orders be submitted? 

Stipulated orders can be submitted through the MiFILE system.

Who makes up your judicial staff and what roles do they play?

My judicial staff is amazing. My judicial staff attorney is my former law partner. My judicial assistant handles scheduling of all juvenile matters including the Abuse and Neglect Docket (“NA Docket”) and the Delinquency Docket (“DL Docket”). All inquiries regarding the NA and DL dockets, including requesting hearing dates should be submitted to my judicial assistant directly. My two court clerks handle all scheduling on the domestic docket and PPOs in addition to facilitating all court proceedings. All contact information for my judicial staff is located on my profile page on the court website.

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

Scheduling orders will be submitted to the parties after receipt of the name of the mutually agreed upon mediator. If no mediator is selected, the court will issue a scheduling order listing Oakland Mediation Center. There will be no scheduling conference scheduled by the court absent request and/or agreement by the parties. The first settlement conference will be conducted by the court clerk via Zoom with attorneys only. The second settlement conference requires parties and their attorneys to appear in person in courtroom 1A. At the second settlement conference, the parties are expected to be prepared to discuss the unresolved issues, how many witnesses will be called, how many exhibits will be exchanged, and how many days will be required for trial.

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

All motions are heard via Zoom absent request/agreement of the parties and the court. All trials and evidentiary hearings are held in person. Attorneys and their clients will be required to come in person to resolve discovery disputes. This means attorneys and their clients will be required to sit in the jury room to work out the dispute and then go on the record if there are still unresolved issues.

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

Providing the court with a clear identification of the relevant law and how it relates to the facts and the requested relief is always appreciated.

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

The parties are required by court rule to seek concurrence prior to filing motions with the court. The court requires attorneys to conduct a substantive concurrence inquiry prior to filing motions. See above for discovery disputes.

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

Making personal attacks on opposing counsel. It is annoying, unprofessional, and simply not helpful to the court. It is also unwise for attorneys to appear in court without having communicated with the other side regarding a possible resolution. The court expects and requires attorneys to communicate with one another. If they don’t, they will likely be forced to do so in person in my jury room.

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

Hearsay and its exceptions—it is a stumbling block for almost every practitioner. I would recommend attorneys purchase the ICLE publication, Michigan Courtroom Evidence Annotated, and use the appendix “Michigan Rules of Evidence at A Glance,” and always have it with them during trials/evidentiary hearings. It is much more user friendly than using the court rule book—and more succinct.

What is an example of a time a lawyer impressed you?

Attorneys who are well prepared, have attempted to work out a resolution to the problem before the court, and have a well-thought-out plan for how the case should proceed or resolve. Attorneys who truly understand the impact of litigation on families in crisis can really help lower the temperature in a high conflict case. Attorneys who “fan the flames” of conflict are not helpful. Our job as the family court is to help families move through their current issues to a place of stability and relative calm, so their children can thrive. Attorneys who lose sight of that (or never understood it to begin with) are a thorn in my side and do their clients a disservice.

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

It sounds cliché but spending time with my family fills my bucket. Our kids are avid swimmers, and I love seeing them set goals and work hard. I enjoy the few moments a day that my spouse and I get to reconnect. Having a weekly check-in lunch with my best friend keeps me grounded and helps me process the third-party trauma that is inherent in being a family court judge. I love a great book. A great dinner out with friends, where I can order dessert first, without judgment, restores my faith in humanity!

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

I was a litigator for close to two decades before taking the bench. I have practiced law in a large national law firm and had my own practice. I understand the stress and strain on lawyers in both situations, and I try to give grace/understanding to attorneys who are trying their best to keep all the balls in the air while being zealous advocates for their clients. I have litigated cases from complex international commercial disputes to traffic tickets (with hundreds of family law cases as well), so I bring a lot of experience to the bench. Attorneys should know I am a practical person by nature. My only concern in every case is “how best can we help this family?” Everything we do as attorneys and judges needs to be designed to answer that question. When attorneys lose sight of that question and are only focused on a “win” for their client, everyone suffers.