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Q&A with Judge Qiana Lillard, Wayne County Circuit Court

By Rebekah Page-Gourley posted 05-16-2023 16:48


Hon. Qiana Denise Lillard was appointed to the Wayne County Circuit Court on August 7, 2013. She won her retention election in November 2014, and she was reelected for a full six-year term in 2018. Judge Lillard began her tenure in the family/juvenile division and then served in the criminal division for six years. She is currently assigned to the civil division.

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

If you’re appearing in person, check in with the deputy or court clerk upon arrival. On Zoom, I ask that you rename yourself to only identify your first and last name and then names of the primary parties on the case you are appearing for (e.g., Jackie Chiles, Kramer v Marlboro). My law clerk will then assign your case a number and place you back in the waiting room until your case is called.

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

There isn’t a magic number. My court clerk looks at the complexity of the matters raised and the number of motions to determine if there is time to schedule your motion on a given day.  

How should orders be submitted

Orders order should be uploaded to OnBase by the moving party after the hearing for the court’s signature. As for stipulated orders, you can stipulate to almost anything except a stay, adjourning a trial, or moving to track 3. When in doubt, call the courtroom and ask my law clerk, who will advise if I will accept a stipulated order.

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

The only person that technically works for me is my law clerk or JA (Judicial Attorney). The other people assigned to my courtroom are the court clerk, who works for the Wayne County Clerk, and the deputy, who works for the Wayne County Sherriff.

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

Outside of settlement conferences, I hold final pretrial conferences where settlement is discussed and final pretrial motions are heard.

What types of matters/motions are held via Zoom and which are held in person? Do you have any specific advice for attorneys appearing via Zoom? 

I will conduct any matters on Zoom that don’t involve the assessment of credibility, such as calendar and settlement conferences and some pretrial motions. I expect that you will dress as you would for court even if the proceedings are virtual.

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

I appreciate when the lawyers attach copies of the cases they are primarily relying upon in their briefs. It saves me time to not have to log in to Westlaw and look up the cases. I actually read the briefs lawyers submit, and I will often pull the cases cited to read them and make sure they stand for the proposition being put forward in the argument.

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

The court should only get involved in discovery disputes when you have made a good faith effort to resolve the issues on your own. I think because of Zoom, parties are filing motions on issues without first picking up the phone and having a conversation with opposing counsel.

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

The most common mistake is being unprepared and not having taken the time to have a conversation with opposing counsel in advance of the day of the Zoom proceeding.

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

I think many lawyers don’t take the time to even read the Michigan Rules of Evidence. It will serve you well, at least once a year, to take a look at the rules to reacquaint yourself with them. It will make you a better trial lawyer and enable you to think quickly on your feet, whether you’re making or responding to objections.

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

Once, a young lawyer appeared for settlement conference with a full PowerPoint regarding damages and defenses. It was obvious that she was well prepared and had given thought to the offering being made and the basis for it.

What is something interesting you do off the bench?

I love all things Notre Dame, especially Notre Dame Football and Notre Dame Women’s Basketball. If you follow me on Twitter, expect to see nothing but tweets about court-related things and Notre Dame sports.

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

It is always best to be prepared, but if for some reason you are not, I would much prefer you just admit that and not make excuses or attempt to blame others for your lack of preparation. Sometimes life gets in the way of the best intentions. We all make mistakes, and things fall through the cracks. It is better to just own that and move forward.