Do Not Take the Bait

posted by Judge_Burke @ 14:30 PM
July 21, 2017

The vast majority of lawyers are highly professional and really can be a pleasure to deal with in trial. But, there are times when the adversarial system becomes a courtroom brawl. Judges in these situations need to manage their own emotional reaction and manage other people’s emotions too. It is not always easy.

ABA Journal has a short, but interesting piece on this topic written by Debrra Cassens Weiss:

A defense lawyer who told an 80-year-old federal judge that he was “advocating for the government” and “abdicating your job as a judge” can’t be rewarded for her inappropriate conduct, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments that U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle Sr. had prejudiced the jury in a mortgage fraud trial by showing contempt toward lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Some trial decisions by Norgle may have been “puzzling,” but they didn’t justify Bonjean’s “frequent and serious” outbursts, the court said in a June 20 opinion by Judge David Hamilton. “We do not reward defendants ‘for success in baiting the judge,’” he wrote, quoting from a 1983 appellate decision.

At one point, Bonjean asked Norgle whether “the court would like to take off its robe and come down here and do the government’s job for it?” She claimed, in front of jurors, that the judge was “doing recross for the government,” attempting to influence jurors, and violating her client’s Sixth Amendment rights.

Bonjean “got off on the wrong foot even before voir dire began,” the opinion said, “telling the judge his questions as she argued a motion were ‘exceptionally rude’ and ‘interrupting.’” Her arguments “quickly became sarcastic to the point of hyperbole,” the court said.

The judge “did not show infinite patience” in the face of those provocations, but his responses weren’t excessive, the court said.


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