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Chris A

For our attorneys...what makes a good judge?

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@dwilawyer, @Jeff Matthews, @tigerwoodKhorns,  and any other licensed attorneys on the forum:

 

In your experience, what makes a good (or better) judge? 

 

I'm speaking from the viewpoint of generally accepted principles of fairness, but also ability to render good judgments (when called upon to do so) and run a good courtroom with jurors, etc.  I understand attention to detail in terms of law and ability to weigh competing points of law, but I'm thinking more towards the idea of justice held by common citizens (including making good assessments of the defendants on sentencing or awards/penalties, etc. in criminal or non-criminal proceedings). 

 

I'm not looking for political answers.  I'm really looking for opinions only from those here holding a legal degree, i.e., J.D., or LL.B. and that have passed a bar exam and practice (or have practiced), etc.--not those having opinions outside of the legal profession.

 

What makes a bad judge--in your experience?  Is there anything in their credentials or legal case record that helps to identify these individuals?

 

No need to put yourself into legal jeopardy by getting too specific, i.e., the couple of judges that I've known socially from my daughter's childhood soccer teams (criminal judges, by the way) have typically been pretty hardened personalities and can be a bit scary when talking about potential retribution for "stepping out of line", so I'm not asking this sort of answer to my questions that puts anyone into potential legal jeopardy.

 

I am looking for a bit of a conversation so that I can understand your viewpoints a bit more completely.

 

Chris

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I found his article as a point of departure: https://www.apursuitofjustice.com/the-qualities-of-a-good-judge/

 

I'm not looking for "diversity" (which implies a requirement on a group of judges, not a single individual).  I also have to say that experience and education are a bit on the nebulous side in that they don't necessarily tell me about the persons themselves, only where they went to school and (generally) how old they are.

 

Chris

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I clerked for two Circuit Court judges.  

 

One would review the law, including my research and memoranda, and the he would make a decision.  He stated, if I’m wrong, the Court of Appeals will tell me so.

 

The other judge would also review the law and my research memoranda, before agonizing over his decision.  He was paralyzed by the fear of being wrong.  He was unable to make a decision, which is a fatal flaw in a judge.  Failing to decide is always wrong.  Deciding based on the facts and the law provides a chance to be correct.  As the better judge said, the Court of Appeals will let you know if it disagrees.

 

 

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1 minute ago, Gilbert said:

My 2 cents, not asked for...

 

You're right.  However, you're perfectly free to start another thread on that subject: non-expert opinions about judges. 

 

There's a reason why I'd like to restrict the answers to those having expertise in the subject matter.

 

Chris

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8 hours ago, Chris A said:

I found his article as a point of departure: https://www.apursuitofjustice.com/the-qualities-of-a-good-judge/

 

 

 

Great Article -  in Reality 2 elements are crucial in the Choice of a Good Judge -Years of Experience as a Lawyer and the above and beyond  Knowledge of the Law ( Legal Mind and an Expert  in the Field of Law ) -

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 minutes ago, DizRotus said:

...Deciding based on the facts and the law provides a chance to be correct.  As the better judge said, the Court of Appeals will let you know if it disagrees.

Did you run into, or were aware of judges that were on the other side of that issue?  Making wrong judgments too often?  I see a lot of reversals in the higher level courts from different districts--like the 9th district (as an example).  Is this bad law, or simply a difference of opinion of the law (in your estimation)?

 

Chris

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7 hours ago, Chris A said:

 

Did you run into, or were aware of judges that were on the other side of that issue?  Making wrong judgments too often?  I see a lot of reversals

 

Chris

- NOTA -it is not always solely - the Fault of the Judges , but the Fault of Lawyers and Police Investigators and Witnesses who  give the wrong Evidence to a Judge  , and in such a case , the wrong judgment is different from an instance where a Judge makes a blatant error in regards to the Law  -

 

-as far as , Municipal and Small Village Judges who are nominated with  0 experience as Lawyers or even without a Law Education by a Board of Municipal Trustees   , these appointments are by far the most cases of wrong Judgments and Reversals-

 

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I've been in litigation my entire career.  I've had to appeal judges several times.  I've had a good number of jury trials.  

 

Knowledge of the law (or at least the ability to grasp it pretty quickly from legal arguments of counsel) is very important.  Also very important is demeanor.  Some judges like to intimidate mere mortal attorneys.  I dislike that very much when it happens.  There is no reason for judges to get huffy and puffy when counsel are all being professional and courteous.  

 

All a litigant wants is to be heard by someone who will listen, act fair, and possess a good grasp of the problem.  I have had to reverse judges who got it wrong and who I still very much respect.  I've had to reverse judges who were jerks.  Demeanor is half the game from my perspective.  I don't need a jerk stressing me out and trying to ruin my day.

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6 hours ago, Chris A said:

 

Did you run into, or were aware of judges that were on the other side of that issue?  Making wrong judgments too often?  I see a lot of reversals in the higher level courts from different districts--like the 9th district (as an example).  Is this bad law, or simply a difference of opinion of the law (in your estimation)?

 

Chris

 

Mostly, I feel it is a difference of opinion, rather than “bad law.”  In my experience, for the most part, the judges I have been before were conscientious, hard working and principled, which is not to say that I always agreed with them

 

Judges are not infallible.  Differences of opinion are not uncommon.  The several layers of appeal are testament to the ability of different judges to reach different results.  The fact that the U. S. Supreme Court doe not always reach a unanimous decision demonstrates that even at the highest level there can be honest disagreements.

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1 hour ago, DizRotus said:

Differences of opinion are not uncommon

most definitely. I've always thought that judges interpret law, so what, in your opinion, is the root of the disagreements? Is it that hard to determine original intent or does the confusion arise when trying to apply it to a modern situation?  I would have thought that original intent would be based on a clear and easily identifiable principle, no?

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No.  What is an "unreasonable" search?  What is "interstate commerce?" What is "speech?"

 

Originalists live under a delusion that they aren't making stuff up as they go.  Judges are, by definition, activists.  They tell us what the legislature failed to express.

 

 

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Iam not a JD, but i know a few who are in my family. One clerked for a SCJ, the other a FCJ the other went as they all did to very good colleges.  They have to have open minds, apply yet interpret  the law fairly, never be one sided politically. Read the Powell doctrine, if you want to see the other side of the coin.

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Thanks gentlemen.

 

Unfortunately, my original problem remains: how does the electorate make informed decisions?  Nothing above (by those in or were in the profession, that is) helps in that task, I feel.  Party affiliation seems to make the least sense to me unless at the highest levels of the judicial system, and even there, it's depreciated to simply "liberal" or "conservative" by the fourth estate.  [I really dislike those terms, as if everyone and every issue goes into one basket or the other, and are issues that are oversimplified and viewed through a single prism: politics, which is now the most divisive way to do things.]

 

The issue remains: how to look at judges' backgrounds or judicial records and make an informed decision.  I see bad decision making everywhere, and I know this has consequences (just as bad decision-making in engineering has a distinct negative effect on everyone).  It's as if it's the greatest secret--that no one in the profession will label the performance of judges as good or otherwise, and when they do, the conversation always turns to politics instead of good or bad law.  Only the grossest examples of judicial misconduct seem to be reported (and usually only after those judges are removed from the bench, and therefore can wield little retribution)...while bad engineering is always evident in the performance of the products and systems to those that actually wish to recognize it.  Poorly performing businessmen also become quite evident and usually very  soon.  But bad judges?  And my very brief personal experience with judges (as people) has been scary.  Sometimes I don't know which is worse: judges with bad and/or elitist attitudes on the general population, or the people that they judge in their court.  Both groups are not good--looking at society as a whole, in my opinion.  (Engineers could never get away with that kind of behavior, regardless of their career success.)

 

Perhaps it is the limitation of the profession itself--that it is opaque to those that have to choose (the voters) who judges and who doesn't--that the profession effectively "closes ranks" when, in my opinion, it should be just the opposite--vocal disagreement among the legal profession should be evident.  I suppose it could be worse: the organizational hierarchy itself (or worse: politicians) chooses who is "in" and who isn't (i.e., judicial appointments--like we have now at Federal levels). 

 

Like I mentioned above: this isn't something that can be hidden in the profession that I spent my career in (engineering).  Everyone gets to see the product and how well or badly it performs.  There is no closing of ranks or professional courtesy when things go wrong in my profession, or if someone is obviously not doing a very good job, or is obviously unqualified to do their job.

 

Chris

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This is a simple ? shouldnt  it  be whats  the best for the populace as a judge?  And a balance of powers,  But that can never be........

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2 hours ago, Chris A said:

Unfortunately, my original problem remains: how does the electorate make informed decisions? 

I understand you are asking lawyers for their opinions but I can tell you first hand not to depend on a large percentage of the population to make "informed decisions." 

 

2 hours ago, Chris A said:

Nothing above (by those in or were in the profession, that is) helps in that task, I feel. 

If the lawyers on the Klipsch Forum aren't giving you what you are looking for I suggest what you say below isn't going to change given it's "we the people' who vote.

Quote

 

Party affiliation seems to make the least sense to me unless at the highest levels of the judicial system, and even there, it's depreciated to simply "liberal" or "conservative" by the fourth estate. 

Wait--You can't blame journalist for what the politicians are stating and I contend there IS one side that votes primarily for who is going to be put on the Supreme Court.

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[I really dislike those terms, as if everyone and every issue goes into one basket or the other, and are issues that are oversimplified and viewed through a single prism: politics, which is now the most divisive way to do things.]

 I TOTALLY agree with this comment and why I liked debating in the old BS Forum. Fwiw, I was an Independent until one party drove me to the other side.

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5 minutes ago, Zen Traveler said:

Fwiw, I was an Independent until one party drove me to the other side.

Me, too.

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5 minutes ago, Jeff Matthews said:

Me, too.

Fwiw, you and I argued total opposite sides for the last several elections and I wish we could revisit those (ongoing) discussions. It wasn't our discourse that got the place closed down and you definitely made me think before I typed. 😎

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That said, the ABA and your state bar association is worth noting.

As to the information you are able to attain there, would keep an open mind, as to research on sitting judge.

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