As a courtroom advocate, I have spent countless hours preparing for court hearings. As an appellate practitioner, I have spent even more countless hours preparing briefs and arguments for why the court procedure should've gone differently or a judge should've ruled differently.
Just like any other field out there where you constantly think about the same procedure over and over again, there are certain themes that begin to emerge. Think of it like when you go to a mechanic and you make a certain noise to imitate your car. A seasoned mechanic will hear you make a noise and know immediately the general area of concern and then work to figure out exactly what is wrong. But if you go to a mechanic less experienced, everything takes a lot longer and there is a greater probability for mistakes.
This is why it is so important in our courts we have the best "mechanics" at work- the attorneys that advocate and the judge who presides over the proceedings.
Now, the best or most experienced practitioner- they know what questions to ask, what needs to be proved, and whose burden it is to prove it.
As I've campaigned around, I've thought about some of these questions. There are certain things that every judge needs to remember and line out in court proceedings. Over time, much of this becomes routine. For attorneys who have tried a case to a judge or a jury, these questions are second nature. Here are some of the questions that I frequently ask prepping for court, or for an appeal, and that judges should be mindful of when hearing and presiding over cases:
Who has the burden of proof?
What level is the burden of proof at?
Is there any shift in the burden/presentment?
Are there parties or people not represented that need to be here, or be part of this case?
Did everyone receive proper, legal notice (this one is the first one to ask before the hearing even starts)?
How will the judge's decision be reviewed on appeal (is in an abuse of discretion standard? or a higher standard?)
I could write an individual blog on each one of these- and many law schools, law firms, and appellate courts do just that. But for now, I'm just thinking on it all. Because when we have judges that are experienced, our courts run fluid and efficiently.
This is why I am running for judge- we need experienced judges now, possibly more than ever, as we venture into the post-lockdown or pandemic shifting courtroom procedures. It's easier to worry about Zoom vs. In person when you're not also juggling which attorney should go first, or trying to learn what a "Batson" challenge is.