Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Judge, Remember What You Said About "Understanding Private Practice?" Remember?

As I was perusing the blawgosophere this afternoon, I ran across this typical story from my friend and stellar Houston lawyer Paul B. Kennedy.

Looks like Paul did everything he could to be courteous to a judge about a conflict, but it wasn't enough. Paul had to get his tongue lashing.

I often chuckle when at campaign cocktail parties and Investitures I hear judicial candidates and newly-elected judges wax sympathetic about the rigors of private practice.

"I understand you can't be in two places at once."

"I know you have more than one case."

"Everyone deserves a vacation."

"Just call if you're going to be late."

That's all nice to hear, and many judges stick to those promises even years after they've "been there, done that."

But it's the wearing off of common courtesy, understanding, and the reality that the power of the robe gives one the power to just give a lawyer a break when they need one.

Today I had a federal hearing at 9:15. I got out of court at 11:30. I didn't make it to my hearing in state court at noon until 12:30, but I called.

When I walked in, the judge said nothing. After finishing another matter she said, "can I call your case? Oh, and thanks for calling that you would be late."

I've heard the opposite.


Then there's the tongue lashing about being late when after it's over you ask, "Judge, did your assistant give you the message I would be late?" There's usually some grumble or silence, like you didn't say anything.

It would be nice if all private practitioners could set up their practice to handle one case per day. It's just not practical. None of us, well most of us, don't show up late on purpose. We show up late because we went to another court first and thought it would be quick, or we show up late because you judge, ahem, often come in just a wee bit late. It's on that day you appear 5 minutes early that we are all made to feel like louses.

There's other issues, continuances due to conflicts, vacations, kid events. The understanding varies with the numbers and names on courtroom doors.

Yes, there's lawyers who will lie for a continuance, or are chronically late, but isn't it obvious which lawyers are genuine, and which are full of shit?

And I know I'm not a judge and I can't understand the view from up there in the center, but I often wonder if you remember or ever knew the view from down here.

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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