WHAT JUDGES WANT
What Judges Want An Interview with Judge Brad Karren By Josh Mostyn SOMEWHERE ON EVERY NEW LAWYER’S TOP TEN LIST OF THINGS TO DO ON THEIR FIRST DAY IN COURT (after “get justice for client” or perhaps even before “remember to address the judge as ‘Your Honor’”) is “TRY NOT TO LOOK LIKE A COMPLETE IDIOT.” That’s a tall order for some of us! Hopefully this helps. Although every judge is different, it is not necessary for a young lawyer to learn each judge’s idiosyncrasies to be successful in the courtroom. It helps to know a thing or two about how each court is run, but you can’t be expected to know everything on day one. A young lawyer—any lawyer for that matter— should know his or her own limitations. To improve, keep studying the law and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And never, under any circumstance, jeopardize your integrity. These are some of the pointers I picked up from Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren. I had the chance to sit down with the former Rogers District Court Judge and find out what he believes will help new lawyers begin their careers on the right foot in court. Me: What advice would you give to a young lawyer appearing in your courtroom for the first time? Judge Karren: I’d say to be prepared. That may sound broad, but I mean it in a broad sense. I’m not suggesting that you have to know every single detail of a client’s life story or interview all the witnesses before arraignment in a criminal matter, but be prepared as in speak with the client ahead of time and know why you’re in court. I want lawyers to have checked out the file, to have reviewed the P.C. Affidavit, and to have advised their clients of their constitutional rights before coming to court. The last thing you want starting out is a Rule 37 Petition.
YLS In brief
Judge Karren: Ask the court for time to confer with the client. You may get moved down the docket, but you won’t be a liar. Of course it’s best to refresh yourself on the basics before ever going to court. Me: So what are the basics?
Me: Remind me again please. What’s a Rule 37 Petition? Judge Karren: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel. Try not to commit malpractice on your first day, Josh. (Laughs). Seriously though, it’s going to take time to earn respect and gain experience…but only a moment to lose your integrity. Don’t do that. Develop a process for client intake and make it a habit. In criminal cases, judges ask whether counsel has reviewed the facts of the case with their client and advised the client of his constitutional rights. A lawyer looks really dumb when he answers “yes” while the client shakes his head “no.” Me: Excellent. This is what I’m here for…tips not to look stupid. So what happens in a situation like that? Judge Karren: I ask the lawyer to take his client out of the courtroom and talk. And I expect that to never happen again. Good luck to that lawyer trying to get a judge to sign off on a TRO in the future once word of his reputation gets out. Lawyers need to keep a reputation for truthfulness to be trusted by any judge. Me: So, hypothetically, if a new lawyer finds himself in that situation, where you ask a question and he should have spoken to his client about it already, what should the lawyer do?
Judge Karren: Depending on what court you’re in, know things like what’s needed for a search warrant to issue, Rules 609, 404(b), 401, and 403. Know what constitutes a proper 3.1 stop. Know what you need in a Motion for Summary Judgment or how to propound interrogatories. If you’re in a suppression hearing for an improper search, understand what constitutes a proper one. Me: Any other basics we should be aware of, pertaining to the particular court maybe? Judge Karren: Take the time to find out the court’s rules. Just call the clerks and ask. I’ve seen a lot of lawyers wasting time coming to court needlessly. In my court, you can waive an appearance to certain things by fax. You don’t need an Omnibus hearing? Fax it in. We’ll even allow lawyers to appear telephonically. You’ve got another hearing across town? Call in. Not every court utilizes the same technology that we do, but learn what’s allowed and you can save a lot of time and energy. Me: You practiced in both the District Court and the Circuit Court, and now you have had time on both benches. What would you say is the biggest difference for lawyers practicing in each court? Judge Karren: There’s a lot alike. Both courts use the same Rules of Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, etc. But in Circuit Court, the consequences are more severe. You can think of District Court as the bumper cars at the fair. You get in,