One of my favorites legal writers, Kenneth P. Nolan had a great Sidebar column in the April issue of the Litigation, the American Bar Association Section of Litigation Journal. The column offered some advice to judges on how to run a courtroom. The column should be read in its entirety[as all of Nolan’s columns should]. With apologies to Mr. Nolan, I offer the highlights:
1. Be on time. Nothing more annoying that waiting, with 25 other equally annoyed lawyers for a judge to take the bench. We do have other places to be.
2. You’re not God. As Nolan correctly points out, a good percentage of sitting state court judges are wearing robes because they share DNA with powerful policitical types and NOT because they were Law Review at Harvard. No one expects you to be Solomon. If you make a mistake, admit and move on. A judge who admits his or her mistakes makes quite an impression.
3. Don’t be a bully. My personal favorite. I was in a courtroom last week where some old fart judge was rude, impatient and dismissive with virtually every lawyer who stepped up. Are lawyers annoying? Absolutely. But most of us are trying our best, sometimes under more pressure than we would like to admit. So how about you cut us some slack and ease up on the venom?
4 Lawyers have to make a living. And as Nolan points out, making a living these days is a little more complicated than it was when your honor practiced 30 years ago. Lots of plates spinning in the air at the same time. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a request for a brief continuance.
5. Be fair. Maybe you logged a couple of years working for an in-house insurance company defending personal injury claims before you ascended to the bench. There you were expected to think that every personal injury plaintiff is a lying weasel. Okay, but now you’re a judge. Sure sometimes it is hard to push those feelings aside, but as Nolan notes “You can do it. You’re that good”.