Jan
26

Invasion Of The Civility Snatchers

We've got a pretty good thing going in the federal courts of this state, at least I think we do. It is a small bar. Almost all of the judges have roots in the state and still draw nourishment from relationships formed at the bar. We've not yet become a big state, replete with brash big-state norms.

That seems to be changing. Big-city lawyers trot through the Courts on loan from Boston and New York. Every third word is "sanction." Give ‘em what they want or they'll seek sanctions. Connecticut also seems to attract federal judges looking for a break from the big-jurisdiction grind. From time to time, a new kid arrives on the block, huffing and puffing foul winds.

Rumor has it that the federal judges in Connecticut meet periodically to discuss the district's affairs. Because they are judges these meetings have a name. Because they are federal judges, these meetings are called "meetings of the minds." I am making an appeal to these minds to meet and to discuss how better to orient visiting judges to the mores of Connecticut practice.

A judge newly arrived from a foreign state typically has no comprehension of what goes on in our state courts. The distinctive feature of state court practice is individual sequestered voir dire, the slow-as-molasses method of questioning each and every juror outside the presence of all other panelists in each and every case. The state court system moves at a snail's pace by contrast to other states. Rocket-docket jockeys landing in Connecticut are sure to find this frustrating. But, as practitioners in the state system know, it is hard to get a state jury case to trial. When you get a judge's attention, you fight to keep it.

Judges who come from Connecticut understand this. And, most often, a federal judge who actually practiced in Connecticut has working relationships with his state-court counterparts. But drop a newbie federal judge on loan from some big city or big state into Connecticut, and fur starts flying.

Not long ago, our firm had a case reassigned to a federal judge I never of. The judge came from a much larger state, with multi-district federal courts. I sighed when I saw the transfer, but was relieved to see the case would finally be tried.

An order issues. There will be a pre-trial on a date certain. Trial counsel must appear at the conference with authority to settle the case. But the scheduling gods quarelled on Olympus. A state court judge owned my time. My paralegal called the foreign federal judge's clerk to ask for relief. We proposed a couple dates when it looked as though jury selection in the state case would be over. The judge issued an order directing me to call my adversary to check to see if the proposed dates worked; in the absence of an agreement, the original date would hold.

Jury selection in my state case, a non-death capital case, hit the wall. There was no good date for a federal pre-trial, and evidence was set to begin in my state case the date of the federal pre-trial. We moved to continue the federal case. Motion ignored. So I reassigned the federal case with regret to an associate. I simply cannot be in two places at once.

She arrived at the pre-trial with settlement authority and the judge ordered the firm to go to retrieve the client, who had no car. I get a call from a frantic associate. When I balked at lack of notice and being compelled to serve as a livery, the judge threatened to send the marshals to close my office, and to detain me so that I could go and retrieve a client who had not previously been ordered to appear. He muttered about use of the Supremacy Clause to disrupt my state case.

The judge kept my associate and the client at a pre-trial set to begin at noon until seven p.m., boasting along the way that he had persuaded a local restaurant to remain open to midnight to accommodate another pre-trial. It feels like something out of Joseph Conrad.

This might be how business is done in states that regard the District Court as a plantation and judges as masters. But this is Connecticut, isn't it? I am appealing to the District Court judges to do a better job of orienting newcomers to the state. If we lawyers have to learn to speak bully, we will. But it has been awfully nice avoiding that thus far. It can be avoided still.

Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Comments (3)
Posted on January 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm by Norm Pattis
Marge:
Spanking?
Go back to your chambers.
Norm...
Marge:

Spanking?

Go back to your chambers.

Norm

Posted on January 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm by marge
They aren't "norms" the judge spanked you over, th...
They aren't "norms" the judge spanked you over, they were bad habits that are indulged in this little Connecticut pond.

He has a fresh pair of eyes and he used them.

A lot of us feel it was about time.

Posted on January 26, 2010 at 7:50 am by William Doriss
Well, you slept on it and completely rewrote the e...
Well, you slept on it and completely rewrote the essay of yesterday afternoon in a more sober fashion: 'Who is Tucker Melancon?' This time you did not mention the invading judge's name. This time you did not call him 'God'.

Between you, me and the lamppost, I greatly prefer the original, irreverent essay, even if this one clears it up a little better for those of us not in the-know, those of us who are not attorneys in CT. Ha! Yesterday, you said it with feeling!?! Today, it's 'just the facts, maam'.

I submitted what I thought was a humorous comment, posted around 2:30. That is now gone, but not forever. I saved my notes and first draft, but what's the use?

I am presently recommending Nancy Lazaryan's recent videos on YouTube regarding the MN legislature's abdication of responsibility in overseeing that state's Judicial Branch. The Judiciary in Minnesota has apparently taken over the legislative function. That is the charge.

This is a very bright, funny lady with chutzpah to spare. (I believe she's also an 'attorney'.) Search: Nancy Lazaryan. Please watch and see if these situations in MN do not also apply to CT, the unKonstitution state? I believe they do apply.
For Display:
Number of states in the U.S.
Confidential:
(Won't be displayed with comment)

Link must be approved, then will show on this page.

x

About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

Personal Website

www.normpattis.com
www.normpattis.com

Law Firm Website

www.pattislawfirm.com
www.pattislawfirm.com

I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

Disclaimer:

Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

Pattis Video