Judges are human

by Jamison Koehler on February 1, 2020
D.C. criminal defense attorney

A senior judge presides.  He is an older man prone to telling war stories about his own days as a criminal defense attorney.  Everyone in the gallery laughs appreciatively.

Appearing in front of the judge is a lawyer from the Public Defender Service (PDS), and the parties are debating whether or not the defendant should be held in custody until the next hearing.   Citing authority, the PDS lawyer makes a fairly novel argument as to why his client should be released.  After all, creative arguments are what PDS lawyers do.  

The judge hesitates.  He does not say:  I am not willing to take your word for this, Mr. PDS lawyer, and I need to have a law clerk check this out.  What he says instead:  It is time for lunch.  We will pass this matter until 2:00 pm.

Those of us sitting in the gallery groan to ourselves.  We have been sitting here for a long time, waiting for our own cases to be called.  We have already heard one too many war story. 

Fortunately for us, the judge continues to call cases.  In fact, my case is next.  As I am standing at counsel table waiting with my client for the judge to turn his attention to our matter, the judge gets on the phone.  I can hear him instructing his law clerk to research the statute just cited by the PDS lawyer.  

In other words, don’t look behind the curtain. 

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