Thursday, July 16, 2009

Legal Practice Tips: Dealing with the perpetually angry Judge

Litigation attorneys that practice in Cook County know of this judge. This particular judge has a reputation for being an eater of dignity, pride and souls. This judge is quite particular and if you do not follow this Court’s procedure, you will find yourself a) yelled at b) have your intelligence mocked and c) find yourself with a Court date the following morning at an hour before the coffee has kicked in. It can be as pleasant as a root canal. Performed with a stapler.

I’ve never had a problem in this Courtroom but I have been scared to death sitting there watching the carnage. This is one of those things where I don’t want to tempt fate. Because I do not want to experience the business end of the Court’s anger.

I walk and I grab a seat in the Jury box in front of another attorney who happens to have his young son with him. As is my habit, I start up a conversation:

Me: I see you are indoctrinating him young into his future profession
Attorney: Absolutely.
Me: Maybe this will lead to a calmer, softer Judge today?
Attorney: I doubt it. But I let him know to expect a lot of yelling. [To his son] Now, if the Judge talks to you, what do you say? [Looks at his son] Yes, Your Honor?
Me: [To the kid] “Sup Holmes?” is also completely acceptable.
Attorney: If it wasn’t my son, I would be interested to see how that would go over.
The Judge storms in and begins the call where one attorney really tried to bring the Judge’s wrath on his opponent: “Judge dooya remember how angry opposing counsel made you the last time we were here?” No response and then again: “Judge, you screamed at opposing counsel the last time! Do you remember that? He is doing the same thing today!” Nothing. “He made you mad, Judge!” Finally the Judge coolly responds “Sir, not a day goes by that I do not yell and scream at a lawyer. Each day I get furious. I can’t remember each attorney that I get mad at.” I have to give credit tiring to kick the sleeping bear and point the finger at your opponent.

Then, this particular scene is over. The call moves on. And the lawyer whose child is sitting behind me is called.
Judge: What a minute…is that a young one I see behind you?
Attorney: Yes, he is my young paralegal…actually he is my son.
And like that, the Judge smiled (something I have never seen before. Or ever heard of happening. Ever).

During his father’s call, the Judge kept looking at the young son and smiling. This case finished and the Judge pulled another fast one on those assembled before the bench:
Judge: [To the kid] Why don’t you come up here and stand next to me and see how things look. Come be a Judge with me.
The Kid: [Stands up, takes two steps, stops, and immediately has the deer in headlight look on his face]
Judge: [To the attorney] You’ve told him about me, haven’t you?
Attorney: I said nothing Your Honor. That I’d admit to.
Judge: Well, if he wants to come up here with me, he is more than welcome.
The Judge smiles once more at the child as the frightened child returns to his father. The Judge returns to the call. And is pleasant for the remainder of the Court call.

I've decided that the next time I am before this Judge, I am renting and/or stealing a child to have with me in the Courtroom.