The Judges and Commissioners of the West District invited members of the Santa Monica Bar Association and their guests to a luncheon presentation on Thursday, September 17, at the Santa Monica Courthouse between the hours of noon and 1:30pm. The Hon. Lawrence Cho moderated the panel of bench officers that included: Supervising Judge of the West District, the Hon. Lisa Hart Cole; the Hon. H. Chester Horn; the Hon. H. Jay Ford; the Hon. Nancy L. Newman; Comm. Matthew St. George; the Hon. Norman P. Tarle; the Hon. Bobbi Tillmon; and the Hon. Mark E. Windham. They gave an informal and entertaining discussion on:
“Say This – Don’t Say That! What We Really Want to Know (and not know) About Your Case.”
The discussion covered bench officers’ pet peeves and what information they found to be really helpful (or unhelpful) in making decisions. Here are some of the highlights.
Being a lawyer provides you the opportunity to help others. This should be your compass. You can be civil. You can cooperate with opposing counsel AND you can zealously advocate for your client. These are not mutually exclusive activities. You can settle early. Consider early mediation or other attempts to settle cases just make sure you have the discovery you need. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get a settlement conference with the Court.
Judges speak to each other about lawyers and share their impressions of the lawyers who appear before them. Every time you or your brief enters the courtroom, you are building your reputation for telling the truth (or not telling the truth). If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t misstate the law and don’t mislead the Court; admit that you don’t have the answer, promise to find it out, and find it out. No single case is worth destroying your reputation.
Be polite. Talk to the courtroom staff as if you were talking directly into the Court’s ear. Whatever you do, don’t be late if a jury is empaneled.
Be brief. Both in written submissions to the Court and in all oral presentations to the Court and especially to the jury, get to the point.
Finally, make it too easy for the Court. Make your points easy to read and understand. Tab your exhibits (although if filing downtown, tabs get in the way of scanning). LASC rule 3.4(b) allows you to lodge exhibits that do not need to be filed. Filing records 2 feet thick renders your case’s court file impossible to navigate. Find the most succinct way to tell your case