CAALA and judges

Members and the President have different opinions about Judges

Stuart Zanville
2020 April

As you know, CAALA is a Trial Lawyer Association that offers numerous benefits to its 3,100 members.

One of the most important of those benefits, and one that is not offered by any other local legal bar association, is the connection created between CAALA members and judges of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Through the years, CAALA has built strong relationships with the judges in Court leadership and this benefits all CAALA members.

Today, Los Angeles judges attend most CAALA events, speak at CAALA’s education programs and other seminars, attend and speak at CAALA’s annual convention, and write articles for CAALA’s member magazine. It is not unusual to see a CAALA new attorney speaking with an LASC judge at a CAALA social, membership or education event or program. No other association affords members that opportunity.

Judge Kevin Brazile, the popular current Presiding Judge of the L.A. Superior Court, has followed the precedent of predecessors such as Judge Daniel Buckley and speaks regularly at CAALA programs. This year alone, Judge Brazile attended the CAALA Installation and Awards Dinner, will make a presentation to CAALA’s Board of Governors, will speak to graduates of the CAALA Plaintiff Trial Academy and will again speak at CAALA Vegas. Dozens of other LASC judges take Judge Brazile’s lead and attend or speak at CAALA programs.

While many CAALA members sometimes get frustrated when a judge’s opinion differs with theirs or when a judge seems to take the side of opposing counsel during trial, there has been and continues to be a level of respect for the bench officers that permeates CAALA’s entire membership. Even though the stakes are high and so is the stress level, CAALA members maintain a level of respect for judges.

Many years before most of CAALA’s current members began their legal careers, or for some, before they were even born; CAALA Hall of Fame member Raoul Magana wrote that “Invective, bitterness, a denigration of the position of the advocate has no place in a courtroom. Respect and good manners are indispensable virtues of a trial lawyer. Denigrate no one. Present the facts and let the trier of the facts make the determination.”

The President’s criticism of judges

It would have been unthinkable to Magana and his peers 50 years ago to publicly show invective, bitterness or a denigration to the trier of the facts themselves.  Even today, criticism of judges by CAALA members is usually private and low key. This, however, is completely the opposite of the opinions about Judges from the President of the United States. His public criticism and loathing of judges can’t be more public, and the level of outrage is off the charts.

This goes back to the beginning of his term when the President attacked a federal judge who was presiding over a class-action lawsuit concerning students who claimed to have been defrauded by Trump University. The President said the judge could not be impartial because he was Mexican, ignoring the fact that the judge was born in Indiana.

The President has consistently shown a pattern and practice of publicly harassing judges and questioning their impartiality. The public criticism of judges has continued whenever a decision goes against the President. This includes attacks on the judges who delivered opinions against the White House’s proposed travel ban and attacks on the Federal judge overseeing the criminal case against Roger Stone.

Recently, the President demanded that Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg recuse themselves from any cases involving him. This came following a dissenting opinion by Justice Sotomayor and a years-old comment by Justice Ginsburg.

As the frequency and intensity of the President’s criticism of judges grows, for the first time, judges are speaking out publicly.

Last November, Ruth Marcus wrote an op-ed column in the New York Times about a speech Paul Friedman, a highly respected federal district court judge, made to a group of judges and lawyers.  Friedman said, “We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms,” Friedman said. “He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.” 

For many years CAALA, ASCDC and LA-ABOTA have presented Joint Litigation programs on Civility in the Practice of Law.  CAALA presents numerous similar programs that bring judges and CAALA members together. These include CAALA Vegas. Attendees at those programs learn first-hand just how different Los Angeles is from the White House.

If you are looking for criticism of judges, you won’t find it at these programs. For that you would have to read the President’s latest tweet.

Stuart Zanville Stuart Zanville

Stuart Zanville is the Executive Director of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Contact him at (213) 487-1212 or by e-mail: stuart@caala.org.

Endnote

CAALA and judges

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