A reputation. Street cred. "What do I want people saying about me?"
Every new Judge at some point sits back and wonders what the lawyers are saying about them; what the lawyers are telling their clients. And for reasons that baffle us, every new judge seems to strive for a reputation of being tough (there are some current exception, especially Judge De La O, who no longer can be considered new).
First they go with the alliteration, the most famous being "Maximum Morphonious", the moniker of the late Judge Ellen Morphonious. For those judges not fortunate to have a surname beginning with M, they look for other ways to establish their reputation that they are tough. Eventually they come up with one, and then they get smug, thinking they have thought of something no one else has. This great idea, they say to themselves, "will quickly distinguish me from the rest of the newbies. I will work way past midnight!"
The quickest way to tell you're dealing with a new and inexperienced judge (who is worried about how others view them) is when they tell you they want to start voire dire around 3:30, openings at 7, and closings after midnight. "This" the new judges tell themselves "will get the word out about me."
Let us disabuse you of that notion.
First, why strive to get the reputation of being a tough sentencer? After all you have went though to become a Judge, isn't "fair" the reputation you want to have?
With the advent of minimum mandatories, there are more than enough cases to try. Being known as tough is not going to get those cases to plea anyway, and quite frankly the lawyers don't discuss your audit numbers, so nobody cares how many cases you have open.
Second, the unfortunate litigants held hostage to your desire to create a reputation pay the price for your ego. This is the most important day in their lives. They want a fair trial, with prepared and well rested lawyers and jurors who aren't falling asleep. Your desire to work the lawyers on the case past midnight as a way of somehow getting everyone to know that you are not to be trifled with will do nothing more than back fire- everyone will know you are scared of your own shadow with no confidence in your abilities.
Third. Your staff will resent you to the point of hate. And trust us, a staff that hates you can make you life as a judge miserable. They don't get paid enough to work those hours. Some of them have second jobs.
You new judges have been on the bench now for a month. You've been to "judge-school" where you were told that when you hold a lawyer in contempt it means you've lost control, and you were instructed on how to bang the gavel ("stiff wrist, bend at the elbow…").
People have lives. Trials should end between 5-6 p.m.
Welcome to the bench.
See You In Court.
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