What I Learned From Being a Judge

For seven years, I served as a Substitute Judge, sitting primarily in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. I observed many things during that time. I want to share some of them with you.

1. To quote Dr. House, “Everyone lies.” While this may be a slight exaggeration, many people testify falsely under oath. Often (but not always) the judge can tell. This can be the kiss of death for your case.

Often the parties lie (or fail to disclose something negative) to their lawyer. The facts usually come out, and it can be embarrassing (or worse) when it comes out in court.

2. Excessive emotion (sobbing, yelling, etc…) will not help your case. In fact, it interferes with the clear presentation of the facts. It also may cause the judge to question your stability. You should make every effort to maintain your composure in court.

3. You should not bring young children to court unless you have someone to care for them outside of the courtroom. They are a distraction and also may cause the judge to be concerned about your ability to make proper arrangements for the child.

4. Some people never get it. No matter how many times they are told something by a judge, a lawyer, the police or Department of Social Services, they will continue behaving the same way. It may be a personality disorder. It may be anger. But, it is a fact. They will not change. This person usually ends up without custody and often ends up in jail.

5. Having the loudest lawyer rarely leads to success. Many people see a good lawyer as one who objects to everything, will never concede a point (even when wrong) and tries to talk over the other lawyer. Judges usually see this as being counterproductive and often, unprofessional. You want a lawyer who has more than one speed and can perform as the circumstances require.

6. Missing court – or just being late – can have negative consequences. You should plan to arrive early in order to avoid arriving late.

7. You should be prepared for anything. Litigation and court appearances rarely follow a straight course. You should expect delays, surprises and scheduling issues. The better that you are at remaining flexible and calm in the face of this, the better you will perform in court.

8. Most judges have more cases than they have time. They appreciate it when you get to the point and do not go off on tangents.