By Honorable Cristina D. Silva
As Clark County Bar Association members readers are well aware, the Eighth Judicial District Court bench has several new members, myself included. Between retirements, the creation of new judicial departments, and more, additional changes are on the horizon. Given the changing landscape, here are five practical reminders that might assist your next appearance before an unfamiliar judge.
1. Review department guidelines. Each judge has department guidelines available on the Eighth Judicial District Court website. The guidelines provide information regarding scheduling, motions preferences, trial protocol, and more. The website should be your first stop when preparing for hearings or trials. If something is not clear from the website, I suggest reaching out to chambers for additional information.
2. Ask your colleagues. Like anyone else, judges are creatures of habit. Given the volume of cases that flow through the Regional Justice Center every day, a particular judge’s preferences and protocols are quickly established. Your colleagues are a tremendous resource to figuring out those preferences and protocols. As one example, with the rare exception, I do not entertain oral motions for release from custody and/or bail modifications. The practitioners who regularly appear in my courtroom are aware of this fact and often communicate this to their clients ahead of time.
3. Communication is key. Lack of communication can cause significant issues and delays. Often times, discovery disputes are the direct result of not responding to opposing counsel’s questions. Similarly, cases are not resolved in an expeditious fashion because the parties have not taken the time to pick up the phone and talk to each other about issues and expectations. It is always clear to a judge when the parties are effectively communicating, and when they are not. Communicate – and – consider doing it over the phone where possible. Emails and texts can be misinterpreted, which can cause even more issues.
4. Avoid filing generic motions. Judges rely on the parties to meet and confer early (and when possible, often) in order to grapple with the case and find the true disputes and crucial issues. If the parties are communicating, as suggested above, it will allow them to frontload the issues and address them accordingly. This leads to more productive hearings, and ultimately, streamlined case presentations.
5. Be prepared. Be prepared. Be prepared. Doing your homework goes a long way. When attorneys present a clear and concise oral argument, or appear at trial fully prepared, they truly facilitate the pursuit of justice. Prepared attorneys quickly establish a reputation of being professional, which in turn lends itself to greater credibility. Like practitioners, judges talk to each other. As a result, your reputation often precedes you.
My thanks to the Clark County Bar Association, and my fellow American University Washington College of Law alumna, Heather Anderson-Fintak, Esq., for the opportunity to contribute to this publication.
This article was originally published in the “Five Things” issue (January 2020) of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association.
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