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The Fair is in Sedalia

As lawyers we don’t talk about it and we sure don’t write about it, but this is something that has been on my mind for quite a while now.

As a litigant going to court you must be mindful of the fact that not all judges are fair and unbiased. Your judge, even if he or she is genuinely perceived by the legal community as being a fair judge just may not be interested or able to listen to you when you show up in court. Your judge may also be getting ready to retire and simply not care. Your judge may be biased and not like black people, gay people, or grandparents. It could be your tattoo, or your hair cut.

I say this knowing that my clients who do decide to go to court have high expectations. They expect the judge to listen to them. They expect the judge to be fair. They expect to have an adequate amount of time to be heard. They expect to at least be understood. Those are all reasonable expectations and if I were writing a client’s bill of rights when going to court I would include every one of these expectations.

However, many times I appear in court I have a judge who is tired, has an overly long docket, is impatient, doesn’t care about the issues that are important to my client, and isn’t listening to what anyone is testifying to. I once had a judge fall asleep during the middle of my trial. I found another judge intently playing solitaire on his computer while listening to the evidence. I have had many judges be interrupted by court clerks and staff and turn to me and say “go on” even though the judge is clearly not listening to anything the witness is testifying to.

What if you are that client? In all cases this is another risk that you run by taking your case to court. You may not have a choice but to go to court. If you go to court be mindful of the judge who isn’t listening or doesn’t care. Your job is to get his or her attention. Make going to court your last resort. Use mediation and settlement meetings if possible to achieve the desired outcome that you want.

Remember that sometimes the fair really is in Sedalia, Missouri. Fair cannot always be found in the courthouse.