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Act 28: I Request a Telephone Conference

Not only am I totally unfamiliar with some of the concepts (amendments to pleading? discovery progress?) that the judge has asked me to be prepared to discuss in less than two weeks (my recurring nightmare about being totally unprepared on the first day of school has finally come true!), the judge wants me to fly to Detroit, a long way from my home in Dallas.

As I mentioned in an earlier episode, the website for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan went online the very day I received the notice of the scheduling conference. Luckily for me, the site is very comprehensive – it even includes "Practice Guidelines" for each of the judges. And when I look at the Practice Guidelines section for Judge Zatkoff, I am pleased to discover the following sentence in the "Conferences" section:

    "Upon special request by an out-of-town counsel, the scheduling conference may be conducted by telephone."

To me, by the way, this represents all of the good things that the Web is all about. All of the important information that everyone needs should be available online. Certainly, all governmental information should be available online. And it's very exciting to see it happening right before my eyes.

Anyway, although I'm not a "counsel," I certainly am out of town, so I'm hopeful that this will apply to me. There's only one way to find out, so I quickly write this request to the Court.

(Note: I have not included the "Certificate of Service.")


Plaintiff(s), Case No.: 01-CV-72987-DT
-v- Honorable Lawrence P. Zatkoff


On October 29, 2001, the Court notified Defendants to appear for a scheduling conference on November 13, 2001. The method and timing of the conference present severe hardships for Defendants, who hereby respectfully request the Court either to conduct the conference by telephone or to postpone the conference so that Defendants can obtain more reasonable airfare.

Defendants' preference is to conduct the conference by telephone. According to the "Conferences" section of the "Practice Guidelines for Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff," (as viewed on the website for the United States District Court - Eastern District of Michigan):

    "Upon special request by an out-of-town counsel, the scheduling conference may be conducted by telephone."

Defendants reside in Dallas. Travel to the Court would severely strain Defendants' limited resources. Therefore, Defendants are making this special request to conduct the scheduling conference by telephone.

If Defendants request to conduct the conference by telephone is denied, Defendants request that the date of the conference be postponed.

Defendants received notice of the scheduling conference today, less than two weeks before the date of the conference. Airfare purchased less than two weeks in advance of travel is very expensive. For example, if Defendants were to purchase two tickets (for Defendants Henry Mishkoff and associate) from Dallas to Detroit for the conference, the tickets would cost $1,826. The same tickets purchased for a flight more than two weeks in advance would cost $1,500. And the same tickets purchased for a flight far enough in advance to allow two-weeks notice and a Saturday night stay would cost only $728. Allowing for mail time, Defendants feel that they can obtain reasonable airfare if the Court will reschedule the conference to such a date that will allow the Court to notify Defendants four weeks in advance of the conference date.

Respectfully submitted,

Henry Mishkoff
2661 Midway Road, #224-225
Carrollton, TX 75006


Dated: November 1, 2001

When I get home from a client's office on November 7, there's a voicemail message from the judge's deputy waiting for me, asking me to call her. Unfortunately, it's too late to return her call. So I try to call her bright and early the next morning, only to find out that she's on vacation until November 13 – which happens to be the date of the scheduling conference! Needless to say, I can't wait until she returns to find out if my request for a telephone conference has been approved. Nobody in the judge's office seems to know the status of the request, but they offer to check out the situation and get back to me...

Good news, the telephone conference has been approved! Not only that, but I should mention that I'm very impressed with the treatment I've received from the people who work for the court. I've always heard that lawyers (and law clerks, and even judges) tend to be annoyed by people who defend themselves in court. We don't know the lingo, we don't know the procedures, we make more work for them and they already have enough work to do. But if the people at the court in Detroit feel that way about me, they're certainly not showing it. Even though I feel like I'm probably being a pain in the ass by asking them to scurry around and look for information for me, they've never made me feel that I was being unreasonable, and they've always treated me with respect. So even though it would probably be improper for me to send flowers to the judge's staff (attempted bribery?), if any of you folks are reading this, I just want you to know that you have my heartfelt thanks for treating me with professionalism and courtesy, it is greatly appreciated. (Now, just let me know where to send the flowers...)

Next: Taubman Replies to "Show Cause"

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