As an advocate
you have a side
and you argue,
and as a judge,
you have to get
it right. And
They’re really getting the opportunity
to participate. You can’t really, as a judge,
rely on a law student for the kind of work
that we’re doing. But if we can let them at
least participate on the basis that they’re
able to contribute, I think it’s a tremendous
Q: I’m guessing you’re finding yourself in
a learning situation, too.
A: Interestingly, I’ve agreed to do three
CLE programs already. The subject matter
[of the CLEs] is what I’m going to do
differently when I return to private practice.
First of all, there’s a very limited number
of personnel here at the courtroom. I
have two law clerks, and I have a minute
clerk who keeps tracks of scheduling and
whatnot. We have what we call “Rule
Day” on Fridays. A typical Rule Day here
may have 40 different matters; that’s an
average number. It runs the gamut of
everything from a discovery dispute to a
ruling as a matter of law on whether a case
should be dismissed, to issues for closure
[and] succession, and some obscure legal
issues that I haven’t come across in my
entire 33 years of practice.
Even for me, someone who routinely puts
in a solid 12-hour workday without blinking
an eye, I can tell you, it is a lot of work. The
first thing I changed when I took the bench
is, I put a notice on my courtroom door that
requires two courtesy copies of any motions.
My law clerk needs a copy to pull the cases
and do the research, and to prepare a
memo for me. I need a copy so I can read it.
There’s only so much time in the day, and I
don’t want my law clerks standing in front
of a machine copying pleadings just so I can
have a copy to read.
Second, there’s no secret door that leads
to another room with an army of people
doing this work. It’s just us. I get these 40
different cases that I’ve got to rule on every
other Friday. We’ve got to get online, pull
the case, print the case, read the case, see
if it says what the lawyer says it says.
I was supposed to have a trial today—it
settled late yesterday. The lawyers were
talking about putting in a deposition, and
they were going to choose different pages. I
said, “Guys, I’ve got to tell you, I’m so tired of
reading a deposition and I flip the page, and
all of the sudden I’m on page 20.” It’s like
reading a novel and somebody tore out every
other page. I wanted to hear the end of that
question and answer, and it’s gone because
somebody decided it wasn’t important.
All the judges want to make the right
decision, but we only have a limited
amount of information, so I’m going
to really be much more thoughtful
about whether or not I’m giving enough
information to the judge. Lawyers—and I’m
as guilty as anyone—we know these cases.
We’ve been working on them for years.
We’ve lived them. The judge is getting
maybe 15 pages of something and is
supposed to make a very important ruling
based on 15 pages from one side and
maybe 15 pages from the other.
Q: What else should lawyers know?
A: I had a conversation with a lawyer
yesterday who was incredibly rude to
Q: And he thought you wouldn’t hear?
A: I pulled the lawyer aside, and I said,
“When you’re rude to my staff, that’s worse
than being rude to me, which you would
never be.” That’s something that lawyers
lose sight of. I told this lawyer, “We’re just
going to reset. I’m going to chalk it up to
you were having a bad day, and we’ll just
go from there.” It’s the same as lawyers
who are rude to other people’s secretaries.
You just don’t do that.
I’ve never been rude to staff. The one
thing that I have done is when I would
come down and file something I would
chitchat with the staff, thinking I’m being
a friendly lawyer. What I know now is
that these people have so much work,
and they’re in the middle of trying to do
whatever it is that they’re trying to do.
They’re polite, they’re friendly, and they try
to help people with whatever crisis du jour
it is, but it’s not like they were just sitting
here daydreaming, waiting for someone to
come in and talk to them. [Laughs]
Q: Is it a challenge to change your
mindset from being an advocate to being
A: There is a funny story involving a
friend of mine. He was appointed to sit
for a period of time. He’s very smart, an
excellent lawyer, a really great guy. He
was presiding over a trial, and he made