September 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

Judge Frank McKenzie presides in chancery district 19 (Jones and Wayne).  Here is an interview with 12 CCDM.

Q:  Tell us some of your personal preferences that lawyers from outside your district need to know before they come before you.

A:  Court starts on time. If you are not there when your case is called and have not notified the Court Administrator of a good reason for your tardiness, your case will go to the end of the docket for that day. If you make no appearance before the docket is concluded, you may have to return another day.

I have a local rule requiring that all contested trial exhibits be pre-marked by the attorneys prior to trial and that an exhibit list be furnished to the clerk, court reporter, and the court at the time of trial. This requires the attorneys to confer in advance to exchange exhibits and agree on the numbering sequence. Exhibits shall not be designated by the party offering them, i.e. P-1 or D-1, but shall be numbered beginning with 1 and concluding in numerical sequence to the final exhibit. Rebuttal exhibits are not within the rule. At the start of trial all pre-marked exhibits are received by the clerk for identification purposes only. They come into evidence by agreement of the parties or ruling by the Court when proffered.

The 19th District has a website where you may access the dockets and request hearing dates from the Court Administrator. www.uscourtdockets.com.

Q:  What are the three attributes that you would consider to set the good lawyers apart from the bad ones?

A:  Good lawyers seek corroboration of their clients’ claim before filing a complaint. They ask for the identity of witnesses to the clients claim, interview those witnesses, and conduct a tough cross-examination of the client to detect problems.

Good lawyers come to the courthouse prepared. They will have reviewed all discovery materials, prepped all witnesses for their testimony, interviewed all opposing witnesses, and come armed with the legal authorities germane to the issues to be tried.

Good lawyers are courteous and respectful to opposing counsel, witnesses and court personnel.

Q:  What is the main thing lawyers should know to avoid doing in your court room during a trial?

A:  I tend to give lawyers wide leeway in trying their cases. The capital offense is when a lawyer lies to me.

Q:  What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

A:  I enjoy most everything I do. Sometimes it is a trying experience but that is a necessary part of the job of Chancellors . The appellate courts have placed upon Chancellors a duty to address many “factors” in our rulings, so much so that a chancellor’s findings of fact and conclusions of law often exceed in scope the eventual ruling by the appellate courts. When lawyers don’t put on adequate evidence of the “factors” it makes the job more difficult.

Q:  Cell phone ringing during a trial: death penalty, stern look, dismay or no reaction?

A:  It is going to happen no matter how many times the bailiff announces to turn off all cell phones. It embarrasses the offender and I rather enjoy seeing the panic on their faces as they frantically try to locate the phone. For repeat offenders I may say to them: “Next time that happens you’re going to have to run around the Courthouse three times yelling ringy-dingy.”

Q:  What is your pet peeve as a judge?

A:  The failure of lawyers to comply with Rule 3.05 UCCR which requires that a copy of all trial exhibits be furnished to opposing counsel and to the court. I guess they expect all of us to gather around the witness who is testifying about an exhibit. I also hate roman numerals. They don’t even teach them in schools now. Why are we still using them in legal documents?

Q:  Who do you model yourself after as a judge?

A:  From 1972 until 1995 the vast majority of my chancery practice was before Hon. J. Shannon Clark of Waynesboro. Judge Clark was always fair and consistent in his rulings and was courteous to the lawyers and those appearing before him. I try to model myself after him.

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§ 2 Responses to Q & A WITH JUDGE McKENZIE

  • Anderson says:

    Interesting point about Roman numerals, but I’m not sure how I’d label my brief’s headings without them.

    It would be nice to use 1, 2, 3 for main points, and then subpoints would be 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, then 1.11, 1.12, 1.13 … but I suspect even fewer readers are familiar with that system than with Roman numerals.

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