Things Judges Wish They had Known Before They Took the Bench

February 9, 2018 § 1 Comment

The National Judicial College’s Case in Point Publication included a piece, “50 Things Judges Wish They had Known Before They Took the Bench.” I thought I would share some of these submitted by judges from around the country, including one from a Mississippi Chancery Judge; can you guess which quote, and from which judge (Hint: no, It was not I).

Before I became a judge I wish I had known …

“Your jokes become funnier, you can jump higher, and you are more interesting after you become a judge. But they aren’t, you can’t, and you aren’t. So don’t believe anything otherwise.”

“That some people will think their Google search is the same as your law degree.”

“That it would be incredibly isolating. Professionally and socially there are so many situations that require me to withdraw to avoid an ex parte contact or avoid what might be construed as an appearance of impropriety … So much of my work is sitting alone with a file and a computer writing opinions, and during hearings you sit alone listening, not talking. It is lonely work.”

“How many times litigants, whether pro se or represented by counsel, fail to provide basic facts necessary to make a proper decision.”

“That folks really would believe that my court would be just like Judge Judy’s.”

“How isolating the job would be. In a small town, the isolation is devastating.”

“Remember that when most parties leave your proceedings, they will probably not remember what you did or what you said — they will remember how you made them feel. Treat every party with courtesy and respect.”

“That the better the lawyers’ performance in the courtroom, the better the judge’s rulings Professionalism and competency are  crucial to a fair and judicious system. Yet when I first sat on the bench, I gave advocates too much credit. Now I know better. And now I rule better.”

“I wish I had known (in my earlier life as an attorney) how I sounded to the judge when making an argument. I’d have said less.”

 “Even if germane and on point, never — ever — use the term nudum pactum in a full courtroom.”

“I wish I’d known that certain legal terms and phrases like ‘co-equal’ and ‘shall be adequately funded’ seem to be used more like punch lines by many members of the other two branches of government.”

“Good intentions always come with a critic.”

“It’s better to do ahead and do good than to fear lack of authority.”

“Never, NEVER go on the bench with a full bladder.”

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§ One Response to Things Judges Wish They had Known Before They Took the Bench

  • Michael L. Prewitt says:

    Very interesting observations. All true. I have been a municipal court judge for twenty years. A judge at times anyway, has a one hundred percent chance of having fifty percent of the people in front of him conclude the judge made the wrong decision. The delivery of those decisions becomes even more important.

    Often I am reminded of a Canadian study about judges by a newspaper. One comment from an interviewed criminal trial judge that I remember is that he had a “front row seat to terror”. To any new judge, write the bizarre things down, People will always tell you you should “write a book” about the things you have heard. At the end of your career, you will wish you had, but are grateful you cannot remember it all.

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