Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A lawyer who is "on the list" is available to be appointed as counsel for an indigent defendant. The pay sucks, but in this economy, money is money, and that's a direct quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes. One such attorney asked me for help. He was scheduled to be in my court the entire following week and was depending on the anticipated income. He had a problem. He was obligated to be on trial that same week in another court. I called the Presiding Judge and explained the situation. I asked, as a personal favor to me, that he set a new date. He, basically, told me to f--k off. I went into detail as to the looming financial hardship for the attorney but this ignited him all the more. We are a small community, he told me, and we schedule trials very carefully. Jurors have been summonsed to report on that date and "your boy" had plenty of notice. I suggested that the scales of fairness dictated one benign move: assign another case to the date in question, and reminded him of the possibility that the preceding case might last a day longer than planned. It was like trying to sell Rick Perry on the joys of being an atheist. What a schmuck.

Counsel was arguing a Motion to Suppress. To be kind, it was pure bullshit. Like the ranting of a deranged chimpanzee. I, in my pre-bench days, was in the well with all the other attorneys waiting to be heard, and was entertaining the thought of of this lawyer's head being in my rock garden. The judge, resembling the first pregnant male, interrupted him. "Do you have a case to support your theory?" (No) "Well, move on to something else!" (I don't have another argument). "I've heard enough. Next case." The attorney prayed for the ground beneath his feet to open and swallow him. His client was attempting to leap over the rail, axe in hand. What a way to make a living.

These are just two of the countless instances of judicial disrespect for the Bar which I have witnessed during my 40+ years of law practice. Why is this? What makes a judge prone to this type of conduct? The answer is surprisingly simple. The jurist has had no experience as a trial attorney. He, therefor, cannot imagine the stress involved, the pressure of having to be in two courts at the same time, the hope that a new client, who can pay a fee, will materialize before sundown. And this is very difficult to learn. He was absent the day that compassion was taught. And its mere thought scares the hell outta him. And this type of mold tends to harden. He is afraid of potential controversy. His mantra is: cover my own ass. Lawyers forum-shop around him whenever possible. His negative reputation grows.

Treat lawyers the way you wanted to be treated when you were in the pit, which solidifies the problem of never having been. Find a moral compass of fairness in your soul. Never forget that, beneath the robe, you have been, are and always will be, a lawyer yourself. Discover that courtesy and respect are contagious. NEVER make an attorney look bad. There, but for the grace of God. Look for ways to help these honorable members of the Bar who do not enjoy a consistent income, with longevity providing for pension. Don't be afraid to be amiable. Explain your decisions, and if heat comes, stay in the kitchen. Be a JUDGE.

Don't get me wrong. There are many jurists who match and adhere to these suggested standards. And their word is out. They enjoy the matchless gratification of grateful lawyers. They've been through it, and so they know. Their personal and professional rewards are substantial.

 And behold, attorneys and judges, all working together, to successfully benefit the system and the public. This can be a probable scenario, and, indeed,it must be.

Now, let me change collars and become a parishioner, again.

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