I’m starting to get to some of the better stories, so I figured I would give a bit of (dangerous) insight into the shady as fuck legal ethics I have the honor of seeing.
So I mentioned previously, where I am currently working, it seems to be the rule that the judges are significantly bought and paid for. Of everything I’ve posted, this is probably the most disturbing (and potentially dangerous) thing to put online. I have worked closely with many courts doing criminal and family law previously, and most experiences are very positive; but every once in awhile you walk away realizing how much power a bad judge can have over an individual leaving little recourse to the client (or attorney). Which is why I hesitate to put this online, but hey, in for penny in for a pound.
The firm has a pretty decent hand in bankrolling judges’ election campaigns. And it seems, if you are a favored judge, you just never seem to have much competition come election time. I will freely admit, this is not something I could prove, I have been told as much but it may merely be firmly based supposition. What I do know is there is deference paid by judges to literally anyone who works for this firm. And woe to any out of town attorney who thinks they can try to transfer venue out. Because that’s how the big money is made. You get yourself a friendly judge, and amazingly all your motions hearings seem to work out in your favor. You ‘win’ enough motions, and the other side has to come to the table, hat in hand with a hefty settlement.
What do I mean? I think I had previously mentioned walking through the court house with one of the litigators only to have a judge stop and strike up a conversation only to find out we were there to drop off a discovery motion in their court. The judge then told us how they would rule. Just… outright, in the hallway, on a motion set to be heard a week later. Opposing counsel had no idea we already knew the outcome. We could have changed the motion and killed them with that motion because… well, we were playing with house money at that point. Granted, it was a discovery motion, so you can only do so much damage with that. How about something a bit more personal.
So I had to walk a motion over to the court, because sometimes the filing system is down, someone is on vacation, or it needs to be done immediately and it is just faster. There is a reason law firms are clustered around courthouses. So I walked my motion over to the court only to find out the court coordinator was on vacation. But the judge was there, and it was fine to give them the motion directly and ask for a preferential setting… directly. The judge pretty much gave me anything I asked for, and then pulled out their business card and wrote their personal cell phone number on it. In case I needed to get hold of them in the future, on their personal cell phone…
This is again one of those judgment calls where A) the much older judge was trying to pick me up, or B) I used my sub-par social skills and read too much into the situation. But, I don’t know many judges who hand out a personal number to young associates.
I thanked them and walked out with my mind racing. This was not something my Professional Responsibility class had ever prepared me for. I don’t like showing up in that judge’s courtroom much anymore, its just slightly uncomfortable.
But don’t think this is specific to this firm. Oh no… There is a decided home-court advantage to law firms. When we go traveling to other areas the exact same shenanigans happen to us. Every motion we file is denied no matter how legitimate. Every minuscule communication must be done in person at the court, meaning you have to travel significantly (and local counsel doesn’t). And oh yeah, local counsel gets advance notice of all decisions, potentially weeks in advance of you. Because they have the home-court advantage and the judges there are bankrolled by the opposing firm, and not ours. The door swings both ways. This is also a very valuable bit of information for anyone who is considering hiring an attorney. If you don’t care why you win (and honestly, who would) then make sure you pick the big local firm who would have the contacts to swing the opinion in your favor. It can be worth millions to have this kind of influence. Quite literally.