Biting My Tongue

Yesterday I had a case before a judge that I have not been in front of often.

I knew her, and her reputation, but I guess she didn't know me.

I got to the courtroom and let the clerk know I was there. The clerk told me it would be a little while - they had another matter on trial in the same court room, and they were going to try to hear my case quickly during the jury's next break.

I went to the pens and spoke to my client. My client asked me to call his mother - she might be able to make bail for him.

I went back into the courtroom to get my cell phone. I whispered to the clerk that I was going to take my cell phone into the hallway, and that I'd be back in a minute.

"Take your time," he told me, "We just started with this witness."

I took my cell phone in the hallway, made a call or two, but couldn't get in touch with my client's mother. I was about to leave a message, when an officer came out of the courtroom and said, "We're going to take out the body that's on trial and do your case quick. Come on in."

(That's what they call people. "Bodies." Whatever it takes to dehumanize.)

I closed my phone, made sure it was off, and then followed the officer into the courtroom. Except that the courtroom door was locked. Another officer who was standing in the hallway with me said, "They have to lock this door when they're moving a body. They'll unlock it in a minute."

I stood there for about a minute and sure enough, I heard the click of the door unlocking, and I went in the courtroom.

The judge on the bench saw me entering the courtroom. She must have just seen that the officer had literally JUST unlocked the door. Which means they must have JUST taken "the body" out of the courtroom from the case on trial.

And she said to me, "Counselor? Are you here on this case? Well, come in. You're keeping my entire court staff waiting. Not to mention the entire jury for the case on trial. Have you even put your appearance on the record yet? Well, what are you waiting for? Put your appearance on the record!"

I can't tell you how deep the teeth marks on my tongue must have been, but it was killing me.

What could I have said? "Judge, did you want me break in the door? Because it was locked. And the reason I haven't given my appearance yet is because you haven't stopped shouting at me from the second the door was unlocked."

But, I guess part of being a grown-up and doing a grown-up job is that sometimes you have to suck it up, and get yelled at for nothing at all. Responding would've just made things worse for my client.

So, that's what I did. I sucked it up. But that doesn't mean I can't vent about it on my blog.

8 comments:

  1. That's crap. Why do judges pull crap like that?

    When I was a prosecutor, I developed a philosophy of not taking crap from judges after I saw an older PD I respected giving it back to a disrespectful judge. On the other hand, it's easier said than done and I know it's a lot easier for a prosecutor to get feisty with a judge because we don't have actual human beings as clients who can get screwed as a result of our feistiness. But the judges will think twice before giving you crap if they know you're not going to suck it up.

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  2. At my grown up job, one of my coworkers had a shoe thrown at him during a presentation.

    That's why Engineering is so much fun.

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  3. Sometimes judges can be incredibly nice though. I witnessed one judge addressing a lawyer who had written out a completely defective complaint for his client. The client may have had a meritorious claim, so the judge basically instructed the lawyer on what he needed to put into the amended complaint so that it stood a chance on a motion to dismiss.

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  4. I understand what you mean about venting - you hold all the anger and frustration of a day of prosecutors, judges, and co-workers inside and release it in a more productive fashion - like blogging. Personally, I also enjoy the long-lost art of miniature golf.

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  5. I'm sorry you got yelled at. I had my first dressing down by a judge this morning at an argument where opposing counsel mocked me and the judge laughed, and then they both rolled their eyes at me when it was my turn to speak. I considered it a personal victory that I kept it together in the courtroom, and if I lose the motion we're going to appeal. That'll show 'em. :)

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  6. i get crabby when the judges basically take the side of the self-rep'd parties and then chide me for "being so mean" to them. Jackasses.

    Great blog BTW...always fun to find more wisecracking lawyers.

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  7. Hello,

    When the black robes are distributed many of our "Honors" seem to lose all understanding of the difficult jobs attorneys have in court. The Judges are supposedly at the top of the field and yet they have a need to belittle people. They are not all like that, but a many are. Judges have issues beyond us mere lawyers.
    I am sick of my pretrials where the prosecutor and the judge make endless jokes at the expense of my strung out client who usually never had a chance for happiness beyond a needle. Its Friday and I am disgusted--by MOnday I will be ready for battle again.

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  8. WHAT CAN BE DONE WHEN A JUDGE ACTS IN WAYS, SOMETIMES SUBTLE, THAT SUGGEST S/HE'S NOT GOING TO GIVE ONE AN UNBIASED RULING? IF JUDGES LAUGH AT AN OPPOSING ATTORNEY'S DISRESPECTFUL MOCKING OF COUNSEL, FOR EXAMPLE, AND MAKING DEMEANING COMMENTS ABOUT COUNSEL OUT LOUD, TOO, DOESN'T THAT MAKE HIM/HER SEEM LESS LIKELY TO BE FAIR? IF COUNSEL BEHAVED LIKE THAT, HE'D BE IN CONTEMPT.

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