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Knowing Your Judge – What Does It Really Mean?

Posted on July 13, 2012 by

There are thousands of quips about lawyers, and a particularly poignant one says: “A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.”  Hearing that both as a layperson, and during my first year of law practice made me bristle.  I thought it meant the lucky people who know the judge personally get better justice, or something to that effect.   Receiving better justice because someone knows the judge or contributes a lot of money to his/her election campaign is offensive to the values of American justice.  Though justice is blind, we would be naïve to believe that such circumstances never exist, because humans are capable of the best and worst, and many things in between.  However, I believe that the majority of our Texas and Harris County Family Law judges seek and remain on the bench because they actually care about families and respect the rule of law.  Before digressing too far, let me get to what the quip about great lawyers knowing the judge really means.  It means that a lawyer needs to remember the audience each and every time he/she goes to court or writes a brief.  That audience is always the judge, even in a jury trial.  Knowing the judge means knowing: (1) how the judge likes to receive information; (2) how the judge is likely to rule on a given legal issue; (3) what the judge’s pet peeves include; (4) what the court’s individual rules include; (5) what time limits are imposed at hearings on each side; and so forth. Just like a speaker or writer would consider the audience, so must a lawyer.  One of my personal crusades as a lawyer is to help my clients and the public understand that the law is not meant to be a scary world reserved only for the elite.  The law serves each and every adult and child in our community, and the court system is a means of resolving disputes that cannot be handled in other ways.  Knowing the judge is not just for lawyers.  The proceedings of our courts are a matter of public record (barring very unusual circumstances), so you are always welcome to visit the Harris County Family Law Center, Harris County Civil Courts and criminal courts to observe and learn.

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