How to Make a Judge Dislike You (Part 1)

The following points are from the book The Art of Persuading Judges. The author, Antonin Scalia, was a judge on the Supreme Court in the US for 30 years. The second author, Bryan A. Garner, is a professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law and has written over 20 law books.

Now, how to make a judge dislike you...?

1. Appeal to the judges emotions, not reason

Appealing to judges’ emotions is misguided because it fundamentally mistakes their motivation. Good judges pride themselves on the rationality of their rulings and the suppression of their personal proclivities, including most especially their emotions. And bad judges want to be regarded as good judges. So either way, overt appeal to emotion is likely to be regarded as an insult.

2. Unorganise your materials

Fumbling through papers during an embarrassing silence not only wastes your argument time; it makes you look like an incompetent. 

I speak from the fullness of my heart when I say that I have seen more trouble in Court over disorderly papers than from any other cause. So I decline to treat as a triviality beneath counsel’s notice this matter of the tidiness and accessibility of the documents in the case.

3. Praise the judge's questions

Never—never—patronize a judge by volunteering “That’s a very good question.” Of course it is! All judges’ questions are ex officio brilliant. [F]or heaven’s sake, forget about the rather trite response ‘I’m glad you asked that question’ or ‘That question goes to the very heart of the case.’ We have all heard this response to our questions, and we are all a little bit skeptical about it.

4. Have irritating mannerisms

...we have seen just about every distracting and annoying sort of mannerism. Some appear to be unconscious and unintended: drumming one’s pencil on the counsel table, swaying back and forth during argument, fixing one’s gaze on the lectern or off into the middle distance instead of looking at the judge who is asking a question, fiddling with papers on the lectern, going through the argument with a frozen smile that’s either silly or supercilious.

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