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Judges: Oh Come On, Really?

I often write about how we at The Firm analyze cases and strategize our approach with such great precision.  Sometimes I think it might be fair to characterize some of it as bragging on my team a bit. But judges still surprise us.

Sometimes we get it wrong.  Sometimes I get it wrong. Tonight I'm writing about a time when I got it wrong.

I was recently arguing against a Motion for Temporary Attorney Fees.  My client has a substantially higher income than his wife.  Her attorney was arguing that the wife needed some financial help to keep the playing field level, otherwise the husband could run roughshod over the poor, downtrodden wife.

The problem with the argument was that the case is simple and didn't require all of the bells and whistles that the wife's attorney wants.  She wants a three ring circus when the case and the parties just need a little wisdom.  No dancing horses needed here.

I had assessed that the Judge was going to award a modest amount of fees.  I even put a specific dollar figure on it.  But I was wrong. While the Judge wound up awarding 70% less than the opposing counsel wanted, she awarded 50% more than I had anticipated.

What had gone so wrong?

I love it when a judge is smarter than me.  The real quality of a judge is in figuring out what the parties and their attorneys are doing, and crafting a result that gets justice done even better than the justice envisioned.  

In this case, our Judge awarded 50% more than I had expected, giving the opposing counsel just a tad bit more money, with the clear admonition that this was all that there was going to be.  There would be no circus, not three rings, not one.  There would be just enough to do one more thing from that great wish list of wasteful projects, then the case would have to be resolved (or go to trial without all the bells and whistles or entirely funded by someone other than my client which we all knew wasn't going to happen).

So, without silencing the other side, without burying them in acrimony and abject defeat, the Judge ruled in a wiser, more effective way than I had contemplated.  

I was not 100% right in my predictions.  But I was 100% happy with the result.

Judges should be, must be, fair.  Judges should be, must be, efficient. Judges shoud be, must be, wise.  One of the great benefits of my job is still learning from a fair, efficient and wise Judge.

"Oh come on Judge, Really?  Well okay then. Cool."

Michael Manely

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