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Judges are people. It might not always feel like it, but they are human beings that can get drunk on holiday spirit (or just spirits), act stupid, and embarrass themselves like everybody else. Not only is there an annual judge holiday DUI or two, from time to time, there's a really ridiculous judicial holiday drunk driving debacle.
Fortunately for lawyers and litigants, judges rarely let that holiday spirit crash into the courtroom. In fact, it is a routine caution from the bench that the holidays are not likely to impact their rulings. The warning is usually followed by a stern "bah humbug!" However, if it does happen that you get an overly festive judge, you'll find a few tips on how to handle the unusual situation below.
Keep Calm and Litigate On, But Do Laugh at the Judge's Jokes
Litigators know a judge in a good mood is nothing to squander. If the judge is making jokes, or is just in general good spirits, keep calm and play along. Defend your client's rights with a smile on your face, and try to sprinkle in a holiday pun or two (I.e., instead of using the word "paragraph," use "Claus").
If it's more spirits than holiday in your judge, then you have a different problem on your hands. If that's the case, your mirrored festiveness could end up poking a drunk bear with the legal authority to hold you in contempt for no reason whatsoever. So exercise good judgment when pandering to a jolly bench.
Request an Extension
Way back in 1993, one court cancelled all trials due to fear of the holiday spirit. And while you may not have the ability to just cancel court for the day, you may be able to get a short extension. If the judge seems a bit unhinged in the cases called before yours, track down your opposing counsel and see if you can't stipulate to a short extension. Then, be really thankful that it's more likely than not that one of you has a computer with internet access that can actually draft it and get it signed and filed (with a bit of outside help maybe) before your case gets called.
Should You Report Bad Judicial Conduct?
If you or your client encounter worse than just some lost or wasted fees due to an overly festive judge, you (or your client) may be considering reporting the judge's bad behavior. Doing so comes with certain risks, but given the fact that most courts have security cameras, if the conduct was objectively really bad, those risks might not be so pronounced.
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