Have you been in a situation where you are trying to argue your case in court, but the judge seems irritated, uninterested, or manifestly biased. You’ll understand how frustrating it is for a lawyer to face a difficult judge.
Some lawyers have mastered the art of handling difficult judges. Many others get frustrated and allow their emotions to overwhelm them and thereby jeopardize their client’s case.
Although it is hard to deal with difficult judges, the following tips can help you stay in control of the situation and your case.
Know The Judge.
A lawyer with a firm knowledge of the laws and the rules of court is always full of confidence. But as important as knowing the law and rules is, it is also necessary for lawyers to know the procedure specific to each judge in court.
Doing prior research to find out the practices and procedures of a court where you are appearing is important. It will save you the misfortune of falling on the wrong side of the judge.
Experienced lawyers rarely fall victim to the wrath of difficult judges. They avoid those behaviors that the judge does not like. But some new lawyers neglect to research the judge’s procedures and end up jeopardizing their client’s case.
One great way to research a judge is to ask older and more experienced lawyers familiar with the court on that particular court’s procedures.
Another right way of researching a court or judge is to ask the officers of the court, like the clerks, registrars, bailiffs, etc., about the court’s practice and procedure.
Don’t Argue! Advocate!
Years of training in the law school in the art of argument make lawyers want to argue on any subject and with everyone.
Lawyers should know the difference between advocacy and argument. If you want to build a successful legal career, avoid unnecessary disputes with a difficult judge by becoming argumentative. Disputes will surely damage your case and reputation.
Get Your Points On Record.
Most courts are courts of record.
The judges and the courts record all proceedings for future reference. The beauty of the judicial system is the existence of the hierarchy of courts.
Therefore, if you feel you did not get a fair hearing, there is always another chance on appeal.
A lawyer should always make sure that the judge records his submissions and advocacy in court, so that appellate courts will have the opportunity of addressing any wrong done by a lower court.
If you do not agree with the decision of a judge, or you think a judge is unnecessarily difficult or antagonistic, it makes no sense to argue with the judge. Let that decision be recorded and then try to reverse it on appeal.
Don’t Lose Your Cool.
No matter what happens, remember to always be in control of your emotions. Most difficult judges already have their minds made up. They are just looking for a good reason to act out what they have in mind. Getting angry is the best way to assist a difficult judge to ruin your case.
The law profession is a very stressful occupation. There are important health tips for lawyers to observe in their line of work. One of them is avoiding situations that put pressure on their bodies.
Don’t Patronize a Difficult Judge.
Don’t be fooled; most judges are smart. Don’t make the mistake of sounding snobbish, arrogant, or proud. They will know, and you will regret it.
Remember that a judge, whether difficult or not, has enormous powers and may not hesitate to wield it to destroy your case. Although there’s always your constitutional right of appeal, it will come at a considerable cost to you and your client.
Apply for Transfer.
This tip should be your last resort. Some lawyers have become notorious for forum shopping. And that is not a proper appendage for any lawyer.
If you have done everything in your power to please the court and present your case and the judge is having none of it, but instead appears biased or prejudicial, then applying for the transfer of the matter becomes your best bet.
While most judges carry out their judicial functions with utmost dignity and patience, a few of them forget their oath to be fair to all and dispense justice without fear or favour.
However, there is no excuse for a lawyer to forget his duties to the court, his client and the society by engaging in improper conduct while appearing before a difficult judge.