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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.

Trial Work: Variety is the Spice of Life.

I have practiced nearly 30 years. I have not found it boring and have loved doing it. I have been blessed with a variety of cases and have not been afraid to push my boundaries a little from time-to-time. I have worked as a federal law clerk, state prosecutor, federal prosecutor, insurance defense attorney, criminal defense attorney and plaintiff’s attorney. When necessary I have either consulted with or co-counseled with someone if I did not feel comfortable handling a specific area of substantive law. In larger firms where people specialize and handle only one type of case, it may become boring. If you specialize you will undoubtedly make more money. The downside is that you may get burnt out from the monotony of doing the same type of case over and over. However, even if you specialize it helps to get outside your area of the law even if it is just reading advance sheets. This expands your analogical skills and you may discover a different way of approaching a problem by way of analogy. Not only is variety the spice of life, it may also increase your legal creativity and make you a better trial attorney. Registered & Protected

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