After Hours Court Antics & My Winter-mester Class
This is my second evening in my Winter-mester class and it’s been pretty interesting so far. The course I’m taking this week (one week = one credit) is Civil Motion Practice. My reasons for taking this class can be summed up with the phrase: Long-term benefits. Here are the pluses as I see them:
1) Motion Practice is practical and useful
The reality is that good old-fashioned trials are getting harder to come by. Cases, both civil and criminal, settle more often than they go to court. Note that “settling” in the criminal sense is called “taking a plea.” Anyway, I think the statistic is somewhere around 90% of cases settle. So, being able to argue and win a crucial motion can often give you a stronger negotiating position for settling the case.
2) Opportunity to practice oral advocacy
I don’t know many people that are just a-OK with speaking in front of people. It’s nerve-wracking and well, nobody wants to look silly in front of others. It’s kind of a given that if you’re in law school there will come a time when you HAVE to stand up and make an oral argument. I’ve done it a handful of times and each time I do it gets just a bit easier. A bit. Actually, leading up to my turn at the podium the nerves are there, but somewhere between “May it please the Court” and “Thank you, your Honor” I get in the zone. When I sit down, I have (thus far) always thoroughly enjoyed myself. So I’m all for practice.
3) Gain some confidence at the podium and learn court decorum
For me, this class is a crash course in what to do and not to do in court. The professor is a sitting District Court judge, so the chance to ask her pointed questions about “How do you do this,” or “Is it ok to do that,” is something to be valued. I am going to need this information come next week when my stint in the DA’s office begins.
So in all, with two sessions under my belt, I’m already really glad I took this class—it is exactly what I wanted it to be.
HOWEVER, I do have to comment on just one aspect of the class about which I’m less than pleased and it actually has nothing to do with the class per se, but more with an attendee. I purposely focused on the positives of the class first hoping to curb my comments a bit on this, but it has to be said.
Law school…oh, law school…you bring the wildest bunch of people together. I’ve never been in a place where there are so many people like me (Type A personality, super organized, highly competitive etc.) and yet certain of these same people drive me NUTS!! So yesterday in our first class, I know I totally outed myself with a reaction to someone’s question.
Here’s the scene: The class is small, 12 of us, and the Judge is giving us an over view of the course, her expectations, and specifically discussing our assignment for tomorrow (which is what we did tonight). This classmate at issue has already gotten my attention because before class he was talking way too loud about way to many theories of law, constitutional provisions, and land mark cases. It’s obvious he wants to appear smart and knowledgeable and just basically show off. Not liking this so far.
Once the Judge explains our assignment which is to argue both sides of a Motion to Enter Defendant’s Property (pretty simple and straight-forward), the classmate (not surprisingly), wants to ask a question. He asks the Judge…a sitting District Court Judge…whether he should focus more on the “ethos,” “pathos” or “logos“ of the argument. I about died, and while I thought it was only in my head, I later realized that I groaned…audibly. Thankfully I did though, because I really think my groan muffled all the noisy eye rolling from everyone else in the room.
“C’mon man! Stop wasting everyone’s time,” I wanted to say. I guess by the time you are 9 hours away from graduating law school you just don’t care for this kind of drivel. That, and it’s just annoying and it keeps others from asking real questions because they are trying hard not to be “that guy” that asks the inane questions. Really, I was waiting for him to ask the Judge, “What’s my motivation?” Geez! Even so, I was mortified that I groaned out loud. Sort of..well, maybe not so much. Ok, not really.
For today’s arguments we met in the Judge’s courtroom. I wouldn’t have been too sad to get this guy; I could’ve taken him. But instead I got called first and went against someone else. There wasn’t really any time for nerves. I got up to the podium, literally, THE first one of the students to speak, and I did it. I made my arguments, I was succinct, I had a copy of the rule and offered it to the Judge (she loved that!!), I made lots of eye contact, I outlined my points and sat down. Done. Everyone else got the benefit of seeing it done by someone else first. It was a pretty cool rush and I think I’m gonna enjoy the rest of this week.
The trip from the courthouse ended on a super funny note. Another classmate and I carpooled and when we came back to my car an SUV had street parked nearly touching my front bumper. Luckily, I had left space behind me and I have a small car or I’d not have been able to get out. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to open my packet of Fake Parking tickets, so I issued one to the inconsiderate driver and left it on his windshield. The “ticket” is bright yellow and says in bold print: PARKING VIOLATION
Here’s the message written on the ticket:
“This is not a ticket, but if it were within my power, you would receive two. Because of your Bull Headed, inconsiderate, feeble attempt at parking, you have taken enough room for a 20 mule team, 2 elephants, 1 goat, and a safari of pygmies from the African interior. The reason for giving you this is so that in the future you may think of someone else, other than yourself. Besides I don’t like domineering, egotistical or simple-minded drivers and you fit into one of these categories.
I sign off wishing you an early transmission failure (on the expressway at about 4:30 p.m.). Also may the Fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits. With My Compliments.”
Hahahaha….who says law school is all work and no play???