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Sunday, December 18, 2016

WHAT MAKES A GOOD JUDGE PART I

NFL Survivor Week 15: Lucy Lew flies with the Falcons, while RFFJ rolls with the Texans. Lurvey yet to pick.... thinks the Chiefs are his path to victory. Once again, we have the real chance for a winner today. If not, at the end of week 16, we will declare all remaining survivors winners!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD JUDGE?

The New Year brings new judges to our humble REGJB. Some are new to criminal (Fine and Hanzman), and some are just new (Oscar Rodriguez Fonts.) 

What will make people- lawyers, court personnel, litigants- call some of them good and maybe one of them great?

The opening lines to Steve Martin's great biography "Born Standing Up" are these: "I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success."

It's a  recipe for success. It mirrors the formula discussed in the fantastic book "Outliers, The Story of Success" in which Malcom Gladwell posits the "10,000 hour rule" in which he states the key to outstanding success is practicing ten thousand hours. Talent is not enough according to Gladwell. The time must be put in. 

From 1960 to 1964, an obscure English band played live over 1,200 times in small venues in Hamburg, Germany. After more than 10,000 hours of practice, the Beatles exploded on the music scene of the world. There are plenty of musical geniuses. Every music school has them. But Lennon had 10,000 hours of practice in composing, playing, discarding, and composing songs again. 

There have always been serious students fascinated by specialized subjects. In the 1960s and 70's thousands of young men and women dreamed of computers. But in 1968 Bill Gates-aged 13-gained unique exposure to a mainframe computer than allowed him more than 10,000 hours of programming time. 

Steve Martin's parents moved several times when he was child. At age 13 they ended up two miles from a brand new attraction in California- Disney Land. Martin landed a job selling magic tricks- performing before small crowds dozens of times a day. It started him on a routine of performing for tens of thousands of hours through his teens and 20's. When practice and genius met opportunity when he turned 30, Martin was ready. 

Vince Lombardi said "Luck is the residue of design."

So knowing what we know about practice and preparation, what makes a good judge? 

Under our thesis, experience in handling cases and clients must be paramount. Sorry to those 29 and 30 year olds who want to be a judge after fives years in the Bar. But you haven't put in your ten thousand hours. 

But what kind of experience? 
Being a PD or ASA would be the natural answer. In no other area of the law does a young lawyer get exposed to the multitude of problems, clients, issues, and solutions that a young PD or ASA experiences. The client who wants to get on the stand and lie. The cop who grabs the ASA in the hallway just before testifying on a multi-defendant case and asks her help in identifying the defendants because he can't remember which one is which. 

Figure 4 hours a day on average in court. 20 hours a week. 80 hours a month. about 900 hours a year, taking into account vacations and off weeks. Ten years of courtroom work brings a PD or ASA to about 9000 hours of experience. Now add another 3 hours a day of dealing with witnesses, depos, interviews, which adds another 6000 hours over ten years and you have a lawyer with 15,000 hours of litigation experience. Now after ten years, the lawyer goes into the private sector for 5 years, doing civil or family or a mix of both. Add another 3500-5000 hours of experience over those years, and with a lawyer with 15 years of experience you have someone approaching 20,000 hours of practice and work. 

Assuming a lawyer graduates law school at 25, by age 40 you have someone who has the experience and grounding to be a good judge. 

But it doesn't stop there. Because in our world, experience is not enough. Character counts as well. 

In the classic movie The Hustler, George C Scott - who plays Minnesota Fats handler- tells Paul Newman who plays Fast Eddie Felson- after Fats has busted Felson although Felson was the better pool player- that Fats won because he had character. He wasn't a loser. 

Coming next. What Makes A Good Judge Part II. 



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah but talent is probably more important. Take Rudy Ruiz for instance, no hours whatsoever but a better judge than 90% of his more experienced colleagues his first week. He needs the hours to reach his peak but he is still better than most of the others.

Anonymous said...

"Judge Motel." Best nickname yet for La Rubia. And someone said Brennan wasn't removed. That's correct. She was going to be, though. That much is obvious.

Anonymous said...

Who is taking over Trawick's division now that Brennan has resigned? And, what division is Oscar Rodriguez Fonts going into?

Anonymous said...

Aren't the best judges the ones you never hear about?

Anonymous said...

Accountability, i.e., elections.

Anonymous said...

See ya lurvey. Go Lucy!

Anonymous said...

What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski? Is it doing the right thing, despite the cost?

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Ruiz is definitely a rookie of the year.

Anybody that quotes the Big Lewbowski is a friend of mine

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that and a pair of testicles