In a fit of curiosity, legendary Brooklyn federal judge Jack Weinstein hopped in a minivan last week, and, armed with an entourage, took a trip to the property at the center of a $1,000,000 lawsuit.
Known for presiding over some of the largest mass tort cases in history, and conducting proceedings in a slightly informal style, Judge Weinstein told litigants that he likes "to get a feel for a case and see what it's really about."
Should this be encouraged?
Though Judge Weinstein took it upon himself to conduct a judicial site visit, when it comes to requesting that a judge or a jury visit the site of a dispute, the decision to do so is a difficult one.
At its most basic level, the analysis behind such a decision rests on how such a visit will impact a juror's or judge's perception of your client and his cause.
For instance, in a recent Missouri nuisance lawsuit against a hog farm, plaintiffs had jurors visit their homes. Instead of hearing about the farm's obnoxious and pungent odor, jurors were able to actually smell it.
They were also able to physically determine just how far the smell was travelling from farm to home.
It's no doubt that such a site visit played an important part in the jury's decision to find in favor of the plaintiffs.
But in cases like this?
Well, the parties are fighting over a 3-foot-wie strip of land that is little more than a walkway between their own homes.
As Judge Jack Weinstein paced up and down the path, you have to wonder whether his respect for the parties dwindled, and if so, whether that will play into his ruling.