Get to know your judge….before your hearing begins!
By Gregory Keresztury, Esq.
One of the easiest ways to score early points with a judge, and to show the judge that you’re serious about your position, is to learn his or her preferred procedures prior to a hearing. In addition to learning a judge’s courtroom procedure, it is important to learn about how a judge prefers to receive courtesy copies, exhibit and witness lists, and other pretrial submissions.
Often times before a custody hearing, a judge will require exhibit, witness, and evidence lists in addition to a pretrial memo or position paper. Learning how a judge prefers to receive the submissions, when they’re due, and how each exhibit should be organized will surely score you some early points in the judge’s mind. Your willingness to go the extra mile prior to the hearing will also show the judge that you mean business when it comes to your children.
Just because you’ve been before one judge does not mean the next one will handle a case the same way. Judges each have different courtroom procedures, and learning what your current judge prefers will serve you well. A judge assigned to custody matters can handle several hearings a week, all year long, and therefore has likely developed a certain flow to the courtroom that allows each case to be heard in an efficient manner. Learning the judge’s preference on calling witnesses, presenting evidence, making objections, and overall courtroom demeanor will help keep things moving – which any busy judge will appreciate.
There are several ways you can learn about a particular judge’s preference prior to a hearing. A great place to start would be your county’s local bar association. Many counties keep a diary or book that can be purchased about each judge in the county, along with his or her courtroom preferences. In fact, some bar associations will also provide tips about how to present an argument to a particular judge, noting which judge better responds to emotional arguments, and which judges strictly follow the letter of the law.
Another source for information about a judge would be the judge’s secretary or law clerk. While these individuals cannot dispense legal advice, they can certainly help inform you about deadlines, and the judge’s preference in receiving pretrial submissions. If your judge has open court sessions, you may also sit in on a motion or hearing day to see the flow of the judge’s courtroom. Pay particular attention to which types of arguments the judge best responds to. You may also find the bailiff or court officer helpful in learning about the judge, as the officer is there every day and has likely seen it all as well.
You’ve taken the time to meet with your witnesses, gather evidence, and have your children evaluated prior to your custody hearing. Now take the time to learn about the judge, and you will be all the more ready for battle.