ften in law school, the judiciary is elevated to a plane of near god-like status; they are the men and women in black. This notion is only bolstered by the way that their names are spoken with such reverence by law school professors, venerable names such as Learned Hand (arguably the greatest name for a jurist), Benjamin Cardozo, and Judge Judy (ok, maybe not) to name a few. I had a different view. My father is an attorney, and his father was an attorney, so, to me, the judiciary, while respected, were simply people with a static fashion sense; black robes every day! I’ve had a few interesting run-ins with judges in my brief career, and witnessed even more. Here are some of my favorites:
Run-In I: I AM THE LAW: If you practice in the sticks, which is defined by the New York City centric crowd as anywhere outside New York City (right now, as they read this, they are nodding their heads in agreement) you will at one time or another receive a call from a New York City attorney requesting that you appear as local counsel for them somewhere near your office. In my experience, this is typically for an eviction procedure following a foreclosure action. This is an easy way to get some early court experience and get some cash to boot. One time I was asked to appear in a Justice Court a few towns over for an eviction following a foreclosure action. The papers were e-mailed over to me, and I noticed an abnormality. The specifics have escaped my memory, but I spoke to the drafting attorney, looked up the issue myself, and was convinced that the abnormality was a non-material defect; in fact, I printed the necessary statute and brought it with me to the appearance. My case was called, and the abnormality was brought to the judge’s attention by the evictee, who had appeared pro se – hey good for her for noticing! The exchange between the Judge and me was, in sum and substance, as follows:
Judge: Well this needs to be tossed.
Me: Well, actually your honor, it does not. Pursuant to [whatever statute I was citing] this is a non-material defect and a perfectly acceptable practice. Here is a print out of the statute along with the case citations which deal with this precise issue.
Judge: [In just short of a yell] I DON’T CARE WHAT THE LAW SAYS!
Me: Well then your honor, I really don’t have anything else to say.
I think the matter was adjourned for some ridiculous amount of time and the evictee moved out at her own pace.
Run-In II: BRING ME YOUR CLIENT AND HIS LORD: This incident did not happen to me, thank God. I was in Bankruptcy Court and the Judge was listening to a debtor describe her interactions with a bank. She explained that, in essence, she was getting the run around; that is when she could actually speak to a human being [insert shocked expressions here]. The bank’s attorney, whom I assume was there to seek a lift of the stay, was looking bored. The Judge was getting so angry that I thought I saw the slightest wisps of smoke escape her ears. The Judge then turned on the bank’s attorney:
Judge: Where is your client?
Attorney: I didn’t bring my client here today.
Judge: Ok. Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to adjourn this two weeks.
Attorney: Ok your honor.
Judge: Yes, well, that’s not all. I want your client here next time as well.
Attorney: No problem.
Judge. When I say your client counselor, I don’t mean some empty suit. I want [turning to the debtor] whom did you speak to again?
Debtor: Mr. X
Judge: I want Mr. X, I want Mr. X’s secretary, Mr. X’s family, his dog if he has one, and, if he be a man of the Christian Faith, I want him to bring the baby Jesus, do you understand what I am saying to you!
Attorney: Um, yes.
I am not too proud to say that I was laughing in the back of the court room.
Run-in III: Too Much Advertising: I had a case involving the purchase of a fast food franchise. I represented the purchaser, and we were alleging a breach of the sale’s contract, and violation of New York’s franchise act. I was having issues getting my adversary to answer simple discovery. I hate discovery motions. They tend to be an enormous waste of time. Instead, I filed an RJI and requested a conference with a judge. We all appeared in Court (and low and behold my adversary came with the responses I was looking for). Our case was called, and I gave a quick run down of what the case was about. I explained that I had requested the conference to resolve outstanding discovery issues, but that my adversary had brought his responses with him to court that day, and I now had them. The Judge looked at me for a moment, then asked that I approach the bench alone. I had no idea what he wanted. I approached the bench, and the Judge put his hand over his microphone, looked down at me, and then began humming the theme song to the franchise. After he was done humming the franchise’s theme song, he smiled and asked what it would take to have my client settle the case. I told him, and he spent the next 15 minutes and two further court appearances after that trying to get the other side to come up to my figure. Good Judge.