Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm Nice Off The Bench Too

A standard description of judges is that he or she is "nice off the bench."

When you say a judge is "nice off the bench," it naturally means they are not nice on the bench.

Anyone in trial practice has seen this in action. See judge on bench, see judge lambaste lawyer. See judge at social event, see judge as a happy friendly person.

I think it's sad.

I think it's abusive.

I think it's another example of what we lawyers call "black robe fever."

I often wonder when I look at a judge: "do you remember law school, being a lawyer (any kind of lawyer)? Have you ever had a sick kid, something else going on in your life, a need for more time to investigate something, anything? You know, human being problems?

It's one thing to do your job and judge. It's another to use the power of the robe to embarrass people, treat people as if a mistake they made was intentional when it was not, or to cause havoc in another professional's life.

A judge is a public figure. When judges are no longer judges, through death or retirement, they leave a legacy. In today's courts I wonder if that desired legacy is "never granted a continuance," "always made lawyers cancel anything they were doing," "caught every oral and written mistake and made an example out of the lawyer, in front of their client, and the jury."

I love practicing law, I love being in court. I hate when the experience is so unpleasant as to mask the true meaning of why we are all there; to advocate, or to judge.

I never say that a judge is nice "off the bench." If a judge is nice, they are nice. Being "nice off the bench" is another term for, well, you can fill in the blank.

Just be nice.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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