The Judiciary’s Nature v. Nurture

Bitter Contributor Columns, Lawyer 10 Comments

I am a student of the judiciary, and for some time, I have wanted to be a federal judge. I’m young and green, and I know it’s a long shot, but I’d make a kick-ass robe wearer some day.  Come on!  What court couldn’t use a strong woman with good judgment like me? Certain things about my resume prohibit me from feeling comfortable enough to admit this dream/goal, and if someone asked me, “Where do you see yourself in 20 years?,” I know it wouldn’t be the first thing I’d blurt out. But right now, in this anonymous forum, I’m admitting it.

Given who I’d like to be many tomorrows from now, I need to do my job well today to get there. If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain, right?  Kiss some frogs?  Dance like there’s nobody watching; love like you’ve never been hurt?  Anyway, the last cliché I’ll throw out is this: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It always seems fitting for courtroom politics, I think.

As I study judges during my workday—their personalities, their behaviors, their trial methods—it’s obvious what a crapshoot the whole system tends to be. Obviously many of these moving parts are 90% of the thrill, but once you get walloped, all perspective is lost.

In my opinion, there are two principal archetypes:

  1. Sticklers for the rules.
  2. What I like to call “substantial justice” judges.


My first major assignment as a lawyer happened recently, and I was to oppose a motion to stay based on litigation in another forum. I worked my butt off, and a major portion of my arguments was supported by declarations from a German law expert and my German client. Their declarations were signed, “I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct, X.”

Well, in case you’re not aware, California law says that the declarations, if signed outside of California, must read, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of California the foregoing is true and correct.” So the judge on that case threw out all of my evidence. And she couldn’t have been a bigger b-i-t-c-h about it, if you don’t mind me saying.

I had a winning argument! It’s totally not fair that my client now has to wait for this German case to conclude before he can sue his employer in California. But this particular judge is a totally typical type #1—she’s a rigid, frigid stickler for the rules. She reads ALL the briefs and does her OWN research. You won’t be surprised when I further mention that she’s a Yale Law grad and a former BigLaw lawyer. But that’s neither here nor there. Bottom line: She is way smarter than I am, and to her, the rules are the rules. No exceptions. She sees it no other way than by the book.

On the other hand, I’ve also appeared several times before a different judge who is a former DA. He’s all about fairness, and as he says, “Fair is fair.” So agreeable! Would you like to add factual arguments to a demurrer? Go right ahead! Oh, did you want to come in ex parte every day and bicker about discovery? You’re more than welcome!

In a perfect world, these two judges would’ve traded cases. In my quest of judge analysis, the former judge put an indomitable mark on my career. Could it keep me from one day occupying her very seat? I don’t know. But it feels like I’m a young, hopeful talk show host who says, “I want to be the next Oprah Winfrey,” only to have Oprah scream, “Bitch, sit down and dream on” in my face.

I’m up against a DA who is hearing a complex securities case and a typical stickler who is handling a messy employment case.  Each of them would be much better suited for the other’s case. Why can’t life always be according to the way I’d like it?

So much for this “luck of the draw” thing, but I guess I’ll have to make it work…and try, try again.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • Alma Federer

    I have always believed that I must play by the rules if I am to succeed, even if the people enforcing the rules are unfair or biased against us.  When I was in high school, I wanted to be homecoming queen, and even though I was voted best looking, I did not get selected because the selection was made by the captain of the football team and he did not like me because I did not pet with him (I was too young to know about sex then), The same type of discrimination happened to me in college, when I wanted to be selected to become a Congressional intern.  I was not selected because my father did not make a campaign contribution to the Congressman’s campaign.  Finally, I learned to handle workplace discrimination.  When I was a summer associate, the managing partner wanted me to go with him to a Met game.  I did not even know what a Met was, but I went anyway, and then he spilled his hot dog on my skirt.  I could not even ask him to pay for the dry cleaning because he made hiring decisions.  I am proud that I did not compromise my scrupules in ANY of these situations.  It proves that a woman can succeed in a man’s world.

  • Juris Depravis

    Bitch, sit down and dream on.

  • KateLaw

    You have access to $$?  If so, you can absolutely be a judge.  Where I live, we had a 29 yr old coke head biotch elected judge after being a prosecutor for 2 1/2 years and her daddy footing the campaign bill.  Ridiculous.

  • Snowman

    Well maybe you should have done your due diligence on California law and taken the extra five minutes to get your declarations worded correctly.  Do you think the rules don’t apply to you?  Would you have felt better if the judge let it in and then it all got thrown out on appeal?

  • Bitter Overseas

    No disrespect, but it sounds like you really just need someone to love you.

  • BL1Y

    I’d much rather be a TV judge.  “The cases are real, the verdicts are real, the judge is a douchebag on a power trip.  This is The People’s(uck) Court.”

  • Rainman

    I’m with Snowman.  You’re mad because someone else noticed a defect in your pleadings.  Grow up. 
    Also, I’m not sure what experience you have, but in my very limited experience, I have noticed that judges do what they want to get the result they want.  It’s likely that your judge just didn’t think your case had it on the merits and so she found a way to rule against you.  It happens all the time.  And when you’re a judge, you’ll do it too.

  • R Smith

    Excuse me for sounding anal, but its a statute, not a judge’s choice and you missed it. She didn’t throw out your evidence, it wasn’t evidence. You evidently didn’t even ask her for leave to submit declarations that conform.  Do you expect hotels to give you a room after you forgot to reserve one?  Do you expect the pump to give you gas for an invalid credit card?  I don’t want to be mean, but you ought to take a weekend and read the CCP, the CRC and all the other rules designed to trip up new or careless lawyers. You get nothing but malpractice suits by pretending that everyone has to indulge you by ignoring them. You’re lucky it wasn’t an injunction.  I went through the same “Oh for heaven’s sakes we all know what you should do despite my failure to follow the rules” phase too, and knowing the rules is easier and safer.  California isn’t some county with one judge and a lot of stolen farm animal cases you know, where “the judge” decides what’s fair.

  • Guano Dubango

    I agree with Bitter Overseas.  This poor woman needs someone to love her.  If she had a gentle man, she would not be envious of the other woman.  I do not know this woman well enough to volunteer, but I am sure there are men nearby who could provide her with solace.

  • Pub Defender

    I love you KateLaw