View Full Version : How to irritate a judge-

02-07-2012, 04:33 PM
Top Ten Ways to Irritate a Judge-from www.cba.org (http://www.cba.org/cba/national/junjul03/cover.aspx)
1. Come to court unprepared.

In litigation, Associate Chief Judge Doyon says, "the golden rule is to be prepared." Preparation is the most important factor affecting the outcome of a case. Know your file, the facts, the law, your strategy – and maybe most important of all, where to find things.

"It’s obvious counsel haven’t prepared when they spend a lot of time looking for documents and going through their notes," Chief Justice Gerein points out. "Really good counsel are prepared. They don’t waste their client’s time or money," adds Prince Edward Island Provincial Court Judge Nancy Orr.

2. Carry on a debate directly with opposing counsel.
The role of a lawyer is to bring information to the court, not to try to debate with opposing counsel TV-style. Forgetting that the judge is there is a bad move. "When you are in the courtroom, you are addressing the court. It is not appropriate for counsel to break into conversation," advises Justice Kruzick.

For Associate Chief Judge Doyon, the worst courtroom situation is two aggressive lawyers who dislike each other for whatever reason, and have decided to use the trial as a way to settle the score. He also emphasizes that they should be speaking to the court, not to each other.

3. Argue with a judge after a ruling.
You win some, you lose some. Counsel should accept a ruling with good grace and carry on in either case. This means accepting a decision during a hearing and not trying to re-try a case after a decision has been made – for instance, by rearguing guilt or innocence at a sentencing hearing. The matter is closed. Move on.

4. Badger a witness.
It’s acceptable, of course, to make a fair attack on the credibility of a witness; it is "offensive," in the words of Chief Justice Gerein, to badger and berate a witness. "The media perpetuate the image of lawyers who seem to be successful by being belligerent and bullying," Justice Kruzick notes with regret.

Judges are especially concerned about counsel who try to take advantage of people whose first language is neither English nor French, or who try to intimidate or throw procedural curves at unrepresented litigants. Maybe these lawyers think they’re impressing their clients or the gallery, but they’re sure not impressing the judge.

5. Bluff.
Here’s a good career-limiting move: make up a case result. Give the court incomplete information about the evidence. Believe it or not, some lawyers panic under pressure and fudge the facts. It might seem obvious that this really isn’t a great idea.

Judges prefer counsel who are straightforward about the facts and don’t try to twist them to suit their purposes. Judges want to know if a trial division judgment from which counsel is quoting has been appealed, and if so, the results of that appeal. They want all the relevant jurisprudence, not just the best cases from one point of view. Honesty remains the best policy.

6. Come up with as many arguments as possible, regardless of their worth.
Judges value counsel who are brief and to the point. They don’t want to hear arguments on six different points when only two have merit. Retired Chief Justice MacEachern believes that lawyers are becoming "too careful," leaving "no stone unturned." But the downside of that approach is that when some of the arguments are clearly borderline, the judge may start to question the worth of all the arguments put forward.

Far better to face boldly the difficulties in the case. "There’s no point in burying your problem and hoping that no one will notice," observes Justice Cromwell. "The most effective counsel come up with an answer to the problem, rather than trying to avoid it."

7. Contact a judge about a case in progress.
Follow the rules of court: don’t communicate with the judge outside the courtroom while a case is underway, for any reason. Scheduling issues and administrative matters should be taken up with appropriate court personnel or the judge’s secretary.

Justice Kruzick’s number-one pet peeve is correspondence sent to him that has not been copied to opposing counsel. Unless the rules of practice say otherwise, only communicate with a judge about a case outside the courtroom when invited to do so by the judge.

8. Waste the court’s time.
"Double-booking drives us all crazy," says Justice Stone. If you have a timing problem or a conflict, Associate Chief Justice Doyon advises you to get in touch with the court and try to work things out. That way, at least arrangements can be made to do something else until counsel is ready.

Senseless questions are another unwelcome time-waster. Courts of Appeal in particular do not appreciate frivolous appeals that were filed not on the merits but for tactical reasons, perhaps as an instrument of delay or to increase costs. They’ll let you know about it, too.

9. Treat people rudely.
"We’re all officers of the court," says Judge Hunt McDonald. "Show respect to the court and all the people in it." Her words were echoed by other judges. There was particular concern about counsel who treat court staff as doormats. The message is clear and simple: Be polite.

10. Show disrespect for the court and the judicial process.
In many ways, this category covers all the points already listed, and then some. If you want to really test a judge’s patience, try some of these antics:

• Whisper with colleagues or witnesses when other people are speaking.

• Make faces or gestures in reaction to testimony or counsel’s questions.

• Remain seated when the judge comes into the courtroom.

• Remain seated while you’re speaking.

• Interrupt people.

• Offer no explanation for being late.

• Never extend a professional courtesy.

• Never apologize.

Judges appreciate counsel who understand and practise the principles of civility.

To conclude, the judges with whom we spoke try hard to overlook personal quirks and nervous habits, unless they interfere with the orderly running of the court. They do care, however, about counsel who are rude to court staff or disrespectful of the court process. And counsel who stretch the truth and play games are really pushing it.

"Counsel’s job is not to make us happy," reminds Justice Cromwell. "It is their job to present their client’s position in the best light, consistent with being honest and forthright." In Canada’s courtrooms, it’s still the substance of the case that matters.

Vicki Schmolka is a writer and editor based in Kingston, Ontario.

03-08-2012, 10:17 AM
my god that is funny - and anyone who has had the pleasure of being in court as often as I have recently will understand that all of these things occur. Sometimes all of these thing occur in the same trial, which makes for a grumpy Judge and Jury :-)

24-01-2013, 09:56 PM
Ha Ha .......I have personally done most of the above in a nz court "deliberately" There are two others that seem to be missed

1- Stretch the hearing out as long as possible ...... I managed to stretch a hearing that should have been about a half day out to seven days. The judge had already displayed that the proceedings were going to favour the Corporation by accepting evidence that any reasonable minded person acting impartially would not have. and

2- Turn your back on the judge and walk out stating loudly "Contempt of Court"... When trying to to prosecute the Auckland Council for accepting funding from ratepayers but failing to meet legal obligations with regard to track preservation/maintenance and the extermination (not control) of exotic flora at Whatapu Scientific Reserve the Judge threw the case out stating there was no evidence- He had a 4inch stack of evidence before him including photographic:cool: .............. I wanted to be charged with contempt as a matter of honour but wasn't