Rex Heinke Quoted in Law360 on California Judicial Reprimand
Akin Gump Supreme Court and appellate practice co-head Rex Heinke discussed judicial etiquette and the case of a reprimanded judge with Law360 for its article “Finger Wag At Rude Judge Reminds Calif. Jurists To Stay Civil.”
According to the article, a recently retired California judge was publicly reprimanded by the California Commission on Judicial Performance for belittling lawyers in the courtroom.
Heinke said of the judge’s behavior, “This case indicates that judges shouldn’t let their personal reactions to lawyers be manifested in court. Sometimes judges are rightly frustrated by lawyers, but part of the job of being a judge is not letting that show. Judges can’t be sarcastic or demeaning in court.”
He went on to discuss the impact of judicial rudeness, “Being sarcastic or belittling counsel severely undermines the confidence of litigants, lawyers and the rest of the public of the evenhandedness and fairness of courts. It also discourages lawyers from vigorously representing their client.”
However, Heinke noted that judges are expected to maintain courtroom order and challenge lawyers when necessary: “Judges don’t have to sit on the bench and smile and let counsel say whatever they want. Lawyers expect judges to ask them tough questions, to push back against what counsel is arguing and be skeptical, even if that makes the lawyers uncomfortable as well as their clients. It’s a question of how judges say these things. They can say that an argument is wrong or that they disagree or that they aren’t persuaded, but they can’t say, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.’ They can’t say that, no matter how stupid the argument may sound.”
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