Jump to content

First court appearance


ghaverkamp

Recommended Posts

I made my first court appearance as an attorney yesterday. A friend of mine had a more substantive hearing, so he asked me to appear for him on this matter. At least, that's his story.

 

Short background: this is a civil case, and the Alameda County courts force the cases through Alternative Dispute Resolution before trial. In this case, opposing counsel was uncooperative in agreeing to a mediator prior to the judge's ordered date. If no mediator was selected, both parties were to appear for a case management conference. "No problem," I was told. "This is the first issue, so the judge should grant a two-week continuance without any problem."

 

The judge calls the case.

 

Me: Greg Haverkamp for the defendant, your Honor.

 

Judge: Good morning, Mr. Haverkamp. So, you're here today because you were ordered to select a mediator by January 22, and you failed to do so. What seems to be the problem.

 

Me: (delivering prepared line) Your Honor, we're making progress on this issue, and with just a little more time, we can work this out.

 

Judge: No, no, no. That's not how we do things around here.

 

He proceeds to tell me how he has 565 matters on his calendar, and that if we don't resolve this matter on time, then he'll have 565 matters on his calendar even longer.

 

Judge: Here's the part where I get schoolmarmish.

 

Now, he tells me about his undergrad International Economics professor at the University of Chicago, and how if I don't do my work before coming to see him, then I consider my time worth more than his time, etc. I was standing during this time, largely nodding and saying "Yes, your Honor" or "I understand, your Honor."

 

Judge: Here's how we're going to resolve this. You're going to appear tomorrow at 9 AM, and every day thereafter at 9 AM, until you notify this court of your choice of mediator. (to his clerk) Where's Mr. B (opposing counsel)? Is he on CourtCall?

 

Clerk: No, your honor.

 

Judge: Let's give Mr. B a call and find out why he couldn't be bothered to appear today.

 

The clerk calls B's firm and is immediately put on hold, which did not go over well. Finally, B comes on the speakerphone.

 

Judge: Mr. B, why didn't you make your appearance in my court today?

 

B: I apologize your Honor.

 

Judge: Well, we'll deal with that issue at another time.

 

Judge explains his new order, enters it, says he'll see us the next morning, and excuses us. I high-tailed it out of the courtroom.

 

My friend called me a couple of hours later to see how it went, I recounted this story, and I suggested that I really did not want to appear the next day without a latter naming the mediator. Opposing counsel clearly got the message, because he was apparently very cooperative this time around. They got the whole thing done by 2 (the hearing was at 9, and my friend was in his other hearing until 11:30) and the order was vacated, so I got out of going back on that matter...

 

At least the first time was memorable. If the judge had just granted the continuance, that might have been too boring.

Link to comment

Well, if you are going to make your first court case memorable, I think you've done that Greg...

 

Congrats.

 

Bailiff, whack his.... :grin:

 

MB>

Link to comment

Being utterly immune to response, judges can be a PITA, and even abusive, big time. Some of them can do it in a humorous vein, but you'd better pay attention (you know that, of course, Greg).

 

Others are simply ill-bred and show it. A federal judge in Laramie, Wyoming once said, in open court as I testified in the case of a criminal alien being prosecuted for returning to the U.S. after I deported him, that he, the judge, had spent two years of his youth chasing men like me across Europe and killing them. The U.S. Attorney stood to come to my defense (I had done nothing to deserve the diatribe - long back-story involved) and the judge told him to sit down and shut up or he'd wind up in jail with me for contempt of court.

 

IMHO, our legal system could stand some revision, but then, I have opined at length about that before, so I won't here.

 

Congratulations, Greg.

 

Pilgrim

 

 

Link to comment

Greg, 1st time is always memorable. :/

 

But, I see this as a reflection of part of the problem w/our legal system.

OC doesn't agree w/mediator, fails to appear, but I'm sure didn't fail to bill.

His/her disdain for the process before the court date shows a certain attitude that would result in a loss of job for many people or at least a serious problem.

Most likely this could've been resolved, by mediation, and avoided becoming one of the 564 other issues the court was dealing with.

Whose best interest was that attorney serving?

His, or his clients?

Good luck w/the case.

Link to comment

Good luck with the new job.

When you go to court, bring some of your other paper work with you, so you have something to do while they wait 20 minutes to get the OC on the phone.

Link to comment

You got your butt chewed on day one? The honeymoon didn't last long did it?

 

Sounds like you handled yourself well. Let us know how number 2 goes.

Link to comment
A federal judge in Laramie, Wyoming once said, in open court as I testified in the case of a criminal alien being prosecuted for returning to the U.S. after I deported him, that he, the judge, had spent two years of his youth chasing men like me across Europe and killing them.

 

I had a judge interrupt my closing argument, at the end of a four-day trial, to say, "Every minute you talk is a minute out of my life". Somehow that didn't end up in the transcript. Needless to say, we lost the case.

 

Then there was another judge whose comments did get into the transcript, and were something like this:

 

JUDGE: State your name

DEFENDANT: xxxxx xxxx xxx

[Wherein, a brief conversation was had in Spanish]

JUDGE: Not guilty.

MR. SMITH: Your Honor, I'd like the chance to present some evidence.

 

 

That being said, I can't really blame the judge that Greg encountered. Judges have to manage their dockets and lawyers get paid by the court appearance. I get tired of my opponents showing up, having done nothing, and just asking for more time to do nothing. We could use a few more judges who hold lawyers' feet to the fire and make them work.

 

 

Link to comment

You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out. My first appearance was as a participant in my law school's Student Law Office program, which allowed law students to represent indigent clients in real cases. I was representing a young welfare mom in a FED case brought by a slumlord. As I began my carefully-prepared opening statement about the constructive eviction that had occured by virtue of the disgusting condition of the premises, I looked up to see the judge tapping away at the keys of his calculator. He was toting up the damage award against my client before any evidence had even been taken.

 

I evened the score later (although in front of a different judge) by winning a motion for directed verdict in an insurance subrogation case brought by Farmers Insurance (whose counsel didn't take kindly to being pwned by someone who wouldn't be eligible to take the bar for several months afterward).

Link to comment
Sounds like you won!

 

Well, I didn't get the easy 2-week continuance my friend had set as my goal... But, I didn't get sanctioned, either, so that seems like a win.

 

Great story. I'm curious, did the judge know it was your first time in court?

 

I don't think so. I sure didn't volunteer it. He didn't ask. I was trying very hard to avoid doing the n00b things I was warned about in all my advocacy training. I didn't quibble, I didn't interrupt the judge, and I tried my best to appear interested in what he had to say.

 

On the other hand, maybe I stuck out like a sore thumb. He didn't say anything, so I don't really know.

 

And I take it you passed the bar? All that crying at Torrey too!!!!

 

I hate to think it came off as crying at Torrey. I like to think of it as cautious setting of expectations. (As it turned out, California basically handed out passing scores like candy in July.)

 

That being said, I can't really blame the judge that Greg encountered. Judges have to manage their dockets and lawyers get paid by the court appearance. I get tired of my opponents showing up, having done nothing, and just asking for more time to do nothing. We could use a few more judges who hold lawyers' feet to the fire and make them work.

 

Frankly, I agree. I suspected going in that the judge wasn't going to be happy to see us there.

 

My goal was to make this uneventful. I actually had in my file in front of me evidence that my friend has put forth the name of a mediator weeks prior, noting that the judge wanted it to be set. What I unfortunately did not have in front of me was evidence that opposing counsel called (as opposed to emailing or writing) in response saying that he wouldn't agree to a mediator until he had a chance to depose a particular individual involved in the case.

 

I kind of wish the guy had appeared and had tried to bring that up. In the group that appeared prior to me, one of the attorneys did try and end-run around a motion to compel, and the judge schooled that attorney quite well.

 

I just wanted to escape without too much pain.

 

But, I see this as a reflection of part of the problem w/our legal system.

OC doesn't agree w/mediator, fails to appear, but I'm sure didn't fail to bill.

 

To be fair, he's a collections attorney. My understanding is that he only takes a contingency from any recovery.

 

I have no idea if the judge took further action for his failure to appear.

 

Being utterly immune to response, judges can be a PITA, and even abusive, big time.

 

I hope I positioned my particular story as a humorous one. Certainly, it was nothing like the one you recounted. The judge wasn't rude. He delivered his lecture calmly. It was better than a sanction.

 

Every judge I've heard speak on the matter and those attorneys and professors who gave me instruction on discovery (I took a whole semester of California Civil Discovery from two adjuncts who spent large chunks of time telling war stories and just handing out bits of advice) always stressed that judges don't like to have to fix these squabbles between attorneys. He probably figured, seeing as he didn't recognize me, that I was due his lecture as a first-timer. If it was my own case, I sure as heck wouldn't want to go appear before him again with the same problem.

 

Basically, I've chalked the whole thing up as a positive experience. If my friend asks me to appear for him again in a similar circumstance, I might next time suggest that he let me work on getting opposing counsel to help us meet the terms of the order instead.

Link to comment

Sounds to me like your buddy set you up.

 

Sounds to me like you did fine. Regardless of the sins on "your" side, I bet the Judge was pretty pissed at the guy who didn't bother to appear.

 

 

Link to comment

Thanks for taking us along on this your toughest & most successful appearance to date.

May they all be this easy..... but of course they will not.

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...