Keep in Mind that Judges Are Only Human

So often I see attorneys lose sight of the fact judges are only human. This means one has to be mindful of what you can reasonably expect of a judge. Help a judge by:

1. Making your arguments or briefs short and succinct. Get to the point. Judge’s have limited time. Don’t cite ten cases when one is right on point. Less is more when you’re trying to win a judge over.

2. Be professional and respectful. Judges don’t want to referee a food fight. Address your remarks to the court, not opposing counsel. Avoid personal attacks on opposing counsel. Attack your opponent’s arguments, not their integrity. Such attacks grate on a judge and are rarely effective. Once you offend someone, you lose your ability to persuade them.

3. Don’t inundate a judge with more work than he has time to complete. If you have pretrial motions and exhibits the judge needs to review and rule upon, make sure they are presented sufficiently in advance of trial so the judge she can accurately rule upon them. Have the Court set reasonable deadlines for all involved. Otherwise, you are inviting errors in rulings or a sua sponte continuance of your trial.

4. Pre-mark exhibits and give the courtroom deputy an exhibit chart that identifies each exhibit by number or letter, description and has columns to show if it is marked and offered, as well as a column to show if it is admitted or excluded. Have sufficient exhibits for all jurors, court staff, the witness stand and opposing counsel. You will endear yourself to the court and it’s staff.

5. Show up early to court and always make sure you have witnesses there on time and in reserve. Judges hate to waste their time or the jury’s.

6. If you can anticipate potential issues that might arise, have a trial brief or a copy of a controlling case on hand for the judge and opposing counsel. If you are sure an issue will come up, you might want to submit your brief or authority early. Judges hate surprises.

7. Learn the judge’s courtroom procedures for jury selection, how juror strikes are handled, the proper location for questioning a witness and when and how you may approach a witness.

8. Provide a copy of your jury instructions in electronic form to the court so they can easily be edited.

9. Check with other attorneys who have tried a case with the judge and learn his preferences, weaknesses and biases.

I hope these tips are of use. Good luck in your next trial.

About Richard A. Cook

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Richard served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials. While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector's Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook & Tisch in Indianapolis. Richard is also a member of the ITLA, IBA and the ABA, as well as, a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Posted on April 2, 2022, in dos and don'ts, Jury Selection, Trial Advocacy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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