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3 Tips for Dealing With a Judge Who Hates Your Client

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 20, 2015 3:59 PM

Judges hold their cards close to their chests -- usually. For all the impartiality and decorum judges normally demonstrate, it's not unheard of for a judge to slip up, letting you know exactly what he feels toward your client: hatred.

It can be difficult to deal with a judge that is openly antagonistic towards you or your client -- but it's not impossible. Here are some tips for dealing with a judge who hates your client:

1. Restrain Yourself

Lawyers like to argue, but that doesn't mean they should argue with the judge. If a judge says something that you think is antagonistic or evidence of bias, remain calm. Despite the attitude expressed by a judge, it's the merits of the case that will almost always decide the outcome. Stay focused on those.

Avoid petty disputes with a judge. It makes sense to want to protect your client, but being argumentative, sarcastic, or disrespectful can undermine your case and make both you and your client look bad. Whatever you do, don't get into a fistfight with His Honor.

2. Get It in Writing

It's rare that a judge's displeasure with you or your client will last throughout the length of the case, but it can happen. If you can't settle an issue directly with the judge, make sure that everything that is said is on the record. If the judge appears biased or prejudicial, you may seek a change of venue or make motion for the judge to recuse herself, but you'll need a record to support that. Make sure any signs of bias or prejudice are picked up by the court reporter, should you need them later.

3. Keep Your Clients on Their Best Behavior

Sometimes, judges have a reason to dislike your client. If your client is acting out, being disruptive, or being generally unpleasant, let them know. If your client's behavior is sabotaging her case, warn her directly about the consequences. It never hurts to spend some time coaching your clients on how to be a sympathetic party.

If All Else Fails, Get Ready for an Appeal

Think your client has been unfairly biased simply because their judge disliked them? It might be time to start readying an appeal. For example, the Sixth Circuit ruled just last month that a federal judge had demonstrated such "outright bias and belittling of counsel" that the defendant was denied an impartial trial. How biased was the judge? He continuously interrupted counsel, accused him of distracting jurors, and told him to shut up. His bias was bad enough to invalidate the verdict, but it still wasn't nearly as bad as some other judges we've seen.

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