Q & A with Judge Karen Quinlan Valvo, 15th District Court of Washtenaw County

By Noah C. Hagan posted 02-04-2019 12:32


Judge Karen Quinlan Valvo was appointed to the 15th Judicial District Court in January 2016. She presides over criminal and traffic cases and the specialized Mental Health and Veterans Treatment Court dockets.

What is the worst thing a lawyer can do in court?

An attorney who is not truthful in presenting his or her client’s case jeopardizes not only the results for the client, but loses credibility. A close second is routinely appearing late for a docket, thereby inconveniencing the court, the client, and the opposing party.

What is the best thing a lawyer can do in court?

An attorney who comes to court on time, having kept his or her client informed about the process and possible outcomes, and who is fully prepared to proceed with the hearing earns my respect and appreciation.   

When are written appearances required?

Our court requires a written appearance for each case in which an attorney represents a client, to be filed as soon as the attorney is retained. I preside in a district court, so the cases move quickly. Having written appearances streamlines the exchange of information between the parties and between the court and the parties.

How is your courtroom staffed?

There are three people who support the work in my courtroom. Our bailiff maintains order and security in the courtroom. He also checks parties in as they arrive, distributes notices to appear when a case is scheduled to have another court date, moves paperwork between the parties and the bench, and takes other actions in the courtroom. The court recorder maintains a record of everything that happens during a hearing, prepares jail disposition orders, and facilitates communication from the courtroom to my judicial assistant, the probation department, and the court clerks, as needed.

My judicial assistant prepares dockets and manages all the flow of paperwork related to the administration of cases. She is the person attorneys and unrepresented parties should contact if they have questions about our court’s procedures, adjournments, and court dates or need to notify us if they are running late for a docket. I remember the challenges of private practice and often needing to be in several places on a given day, so I am understanding when unexpected scheduling difficulties arise. I do expect to be notified timely so others are not inconvenienced.

When is a brief required?

Briefs should be filed in support of motions to explain the law on which the advocate is relying for his or her position.

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

Generally, motions are scheduled on alternating Thursday mornings at 9:00 a.m. There are usually 10 or fewer motions on a given day. Landlord-tenant motions are typically heard at the end of the landlord-tenant docket, which is Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m.

When and how do attorneys request an adjournment?

Attorneys are encouraged to discuss the need for an adjournment with opposing counsel, reach an agreement, and then submit a stipulation to my judicial assistant for the court’s consideration. The party requesting an adjournment should contact my judicial assistant to confirm next available dates, so it can be included in the stipulation submitted to the court. It is not unusual for an attorney to have a scheduling conflict requiring a short adjournment. I will typically grant one adjournment to each party for scheduling reasons. Adjournments necessitated by illness or emergencies are routinely granted. When a case is lingering too long, the attorneys/parties will be notified there will be no further adjournments.

What happens at a settlement conference?

At settlement conferences, the parties discuss possible avenues and impediments to settlement, confirm the presence of witnesses, and discuss jury instructions as well as exchange exhibit and witness lists. If the parties have motions, they may be heard during the settlement conference time.

When should a client come to court?

Clients are expected in court, on time for the hearing, whenever there is a hearing, unless they have been excused ahead of time by agreement with the prosecutor and the court.

When is it appropriate to request a bench conference?

It is important to have all information in the record. I do allow attorneys to request a bench conference when there is medical information about a person involved in the hearing that affects the discussion or other very personal information about a party which has a bearing on the decision being made.

How are trial dates determined?

Trials are scheduled on the record at the end of a pretrial conference during which a case is not resolved.