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IBA: Tips From the Bench

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By The Hon. Lisa Borges, Marion Superior Court Criminal Division

Each time you step into a courtroom, you have a goal to achieve. You may need to get in and out quickly because you need to be in nine separate courtrooms at the same time. It’s possible you want something outrageous (for a really, really good reason), thus you want to be heard after all the other folks leave. Judges appreciate your busy schedule and understand you may not always be able to put our courts first. And believe it or not, we really want you to be happy! In order to assist the court in getting you what you need, there are a few things you can do. Remember Eddie Haskell? No one would suggest going that far. But wouldn’t you like to have all your friends say “Mom (or that judge) always liked you best?” The following are some suggestions which may well catapult you to the top of the ‘faves’ list:
 

borges-mug Borges

INTRODUCE YOURSELF – We could be having an “elder moment” and have forgotten who you are what you are doing over there at the table. And don’t you want everyone else in the courtroom to know you, too?

BE ON TIME – AKA, LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE, WHY AND WHEN YOU WILL ARRIVE – We’ll accept almost any excuse. The donkey cart broke down, the kids play isn’t over yet…We just want to know when we will finish the calendar, because the motions your friends are filing right now are piling up in the office and the Bailiff is starving.

SUGGEST A DATE – If you’re ready, say so! If you aren’t, say when you WILL be ready. The Amazing Judge Carnack, can’t actually see into your calendar. Murphy’s Law says we’ll always pick a date you don’t want and we get embarrassed fumbling around suggesting date after date. Some of us are considering going to a lottery system.

KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR CASE – at the very least, be able to recognize your client. We have to figure out what to do with our other cases if yours is going to take a week to try. Remember to tip us off so we can prepare to concentrate on your case and only your case.

GIVE US A “HEADS UP” FOR EVIDENTIARY I.E.D’S IN YOUR TRIAL – We really will read the cases you give us before trial. In fact, we’re such big readers we go into transports over your Bench Briefs.

DRESS FOR COURT – Your client’s tee shirt that shows Tweety Bird with the saying “If you see a copy Warn-A-Brother” should be inside out during any court session. And you know your mother would want you to dress up to be a good example.

BRING YOUR OWN ART SUPPLIES AND TAKE THEM WITH YOU WHEN YOU GO – Unless you’d like to fund lockers for the court office.

BE NICE TO OUR STAFF – We don’t mean to give presents. All we ask is that you speak kindly and say please. They can help you in ways you can’t imagine. For example: working hard to convince us your excuse for being late is true or maybe even suggesting something that’s been working lately.

EX PARTE IS (ALMOST) ALWAYS A BAD THING – This will make us run for cover.

DON’T INTERRUPT – and please tell your client not to interrupt either. The court reporters are very valuable and we are trying to stay on their good side. They can become quite irritable if they can’t hear what’s being said, which is bad for everyone.

COME TO COURT WITH YOUR CLIENT – or at least have an idea where he or she might be.

REMEMBER, JUDGES ARE PEOPLE TOO – Smile. It will make us happy – and keep us wondering!•

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