Approach the Bench - Civil District Court

July 29 2015 | Committees


YLS Approach the Bench - Civil District Court
with Judge Ethel Simms Julien

Judge Julien started off her Approach the Bench CLE seminar by explaining what she finds to be important and her advice. First was stressing the importance of courtesy copies because it makes a difference to the court in terms of preparation. She doesn't find unpublished opinions persuasive. Second is fax filing. Document gets dated as the day you fax it, not filed. The filing date doesn't get reported until the day the original is delivered to her. The Judge said not to rely on just law clerks to help you, you can ask other staff too. If you don't do a memo, don't argue it. If parties cannot agree on the judgment, phrasing or wording, and you are not the writer, write your own and submit it. For trials, write down everything you want to prove and cover with the witness. it is important to be prepared and not miss the key elements. Prepare your witness, don't lead them. State the basis of your objection on the record in case another court has to see it. Finally, don't argue with the witness.

Judge Julien went on to discuss conferences. En Banc day is the first Tuesday of the month. She is flexible about scheduling trial dates but you must fill out the proper forms. She allows you to participate on the phone IF you are far away and cannot make it in person. She prefers you to be 100% ready to be tried by the time you file. In regards to settlement conferences, she allows on every trial. She would prefer to wait to a month before the trial. When she has multiple cases, she will look at what is ready first. She tries to do old cases but sometimes they are around for a long time because they aren't in fact ready. 

Her pet peeves include cell phones going off in court, being late because it gives off a bad impression to the court, dishonesty because it makes the Judge believe you are unreliable. She does not like when lawyers talk over each other, its important to allow each other to speak so everyone is properly heard. Judge Julien said, "Your reputation forms very early on and it is the most important thing you have as a lawyer."

In terms of protocol: stand up when you are addressing the court, do not stand over the witness , speak slowly and clearly, ask to approach the witness before doing so, and do not cite other proceedings or judge's rulings or unpublished opinions.


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