Last month I wrote about what the Bar can and should expect from our Bench. I received quite a bit of feedback from the Bench and Bar, most of it favorable. Two comments are worthy of note. One was from a Denver attorney, and another was from a judge who sits outside the Fourth Judicial District. As an initial matter, I had no idea that anyone outside of our Bar read The Pikes Peak Lawyer, but I am pleased to hear that others are interested in what we are doing in El Paso and Teller Counties.
My Denver colleague was somewhat surprised with last month’s article. He liked and agreed with what I had written, but nevertheless thought I might have been smart to have published it anonymously. As I told him, I am at a loss to know how I could have made the President’s Column anonymous. In any event, other than generating some largely positive comments, the article has not been the cause of any repercussions, at least none that I know of. The judges in our District that I interviewed for this month’s Column had no problem with what I wrote.
I found the judge’s comments more interesting. In an email, the judge told me that it was a “great article,” and that I was “right on the money.” He was disappointed, however, that I had chosen to include an apology in the article’s last full paragraph. That paragraph began: “Those are my thoughts. Hopefully I have not offended too many people . . . .” The judge’s explanation follows:
The only reason someone would be offended by your words is that he or she has failed to live up to them, and they should be offended therefore. The law is a high calling, and judges should stand at the apex. Although we are subject to human frailties, we should consider it our obligation to those we serve to be entitled by our conduct to the title, “Your Honor.”
As an attorney who has practiced in the Fourth Judicial District since 1988, I am in a position to know what attorneys expect from our Bench. Accordingly, last month’s article was based in part on my own experience, as well as comments I received from other practitioners in our Bar. Although I clerked for a judge 22 years ago, I have never been a judge and am not qualified to state with any certainty what our Bench expects from the Bar. In light of this, after my last Column was published, I interviewed a number of Fourth Judicial District Judges, asking each what they expect from attorneys who practice in their Court. In addition, I received email messages from a number of other judges that I did not have time to interview.
From my discussions with the judges I see three recurring themes. First, the judges want to see the same high level of advocacy that we seek to achieve. Among other things, each commented on a recent hearing, trial or case where good lawyering made their job easier and more rewarding. Second, although they provided me with examples of situations where improvement can and should be made, the judges went out of their way to explain to me that they did not want to be perceived as complaining about our Bar or lawyers generally, or our role in the legal system. They view us in part as their constituency. The judges with whom I spoke or corresponded appear determined to do their best, and are generally upbeat about our Bar and its performance before them. Finally, by the nature of their position the judges feel and are isolated from the Bar. This is a problem and it is significant. Hopefully, this article will assist in ending some of the isolation. Having a Bar President next year who happens to be a judge (El Paso County District Judge Kirk Samelson) will also help.
What follows is a summary in my words of what I was told by members of our Bench about their expectations of our Bar.
I have attempted to capture the main points made to me by members of our Bench regarding their expectations of our Bar. There is a lot more to talk about. As I said in my last article, I am hopeful that the Bench/Bar articles will encourage a dialogue between the Bench and Bar, and among the Bar, as to what it is we expect from each other.
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