I last wrote about a recent presentation made to my office by a retired judge, “Practical Advice and Perspectives From the Bench.” While I found it most compelling (disturbing) to learn that many (most?) jurists in Los Angeles Superior Court, have a policy of denying even meritorious motions for summary judgment, the judge also offered several items of valuable advice. While much of this will be familiar to lawyers who regularly appear in court, it is all useful and some of us, myself included, benefit from the occasional reminder. So, in no particular order, here are some of his more valuable insights and suggestions:
1. Never, ever, ever preface any argument to any judge using “With all due respect . . .” This conveys the opposite, essentially, “You, Judge, are a moron, incapable of understanding the most basic legal concept . . .”
2. Do not give equal time and/or space to weaker arguments. This dilutes the stronger arguments. Always lead with your best argument.
3. Avoid repetition. In the law and motion context, do not repeat arguments from your client’s motion in your reply. And don’t orally repeat the argument again during the hearing.
4. Don’t argue when the tentative is in your favor or you’re otherwise winning. Sit down and shut up. Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
5. Always give pin-cites (i.e., to the specific page within an opinion). While this is how I was trained and how I practice, I would not have guessed pin-cites were so important to judges (and research attorneys). The judge said his practice was always to look up cases lacking pin-cites and 50% of the time the case did not stand for the cited proposition.
6. Refrain from petty complaints about opposing counsel. The judge hears this all day long and you’re not furthering your cause, even if you’re 100% correct.
7. When you appear on a multi-party case, take the time to orient the judge as to who the parties are, how they fit together in the controversy. We apparently have “no idea” how confusing and disorienting it is to the judge when five different sets of lawyers appear on a case.
Again, many of these are either common sense or things most of us already know. But, coming as they did from a retired judge, I thought it would be useful to share them.