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How NOT to Handle In-Chambers Conferences

There are a thousand things lawyers should do in court.

Always respect the judge, make eye contact with jurors, be civil to opposing counsel, etc.

But there are at least three rules for in-chambers conferences, and the most important rule is about what NOT to do. Think of it like the moment the gate comes down at a railroad crossing.

In-Chambers Conferences

Generally, chambers conferences serve to help the judge and attorneys communicate about procedural matters. Off-the-record, the participants can cut to the chase and save court time.

However, judges and lawyers often use them for other reasons. A judge may ask counsel to meet in chambers to resolve an issue, and attorneys almost always go in to argue a position.

As a rule of thumb:

  • If the judge asks, you SHALL go in-chambers
  • If opposing counsel asks, you SHOULD go in
  • If nobody asks, do NOT go in there

Do NOT Go in There

Obviously, it's an ex parte communication to go in chambers without opposing counsel or an unrepresented party. That should be reason enough not to go in chambers.

But even if you could get away with it -- for example, the judge is your former colleague or a friend -- it's like kissing the bride. Unless you are married, better stay away.

There's a basic problem with court proceedings behind closed doors -- especially for judges. In Texas, it turned into a class-action lawsuit and then some.

In those cases, the judges skipped the chambers conferences and set bail in closed hearings. There's a train wreck for ya.

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