2.03.2006

In the blink of an eye

As I've mentioned, I was either an ADA or APD prior to becoming an associate in a mid-sized firm. During the middle of my tenure at that position, I was assigned to a judge that was known for making the lives of the APDs and ADAs in his court sheer hell. Judge Hardass was an equal opportunity offender in this regard, and was hard on both APDs and ADAs.

But, I was ready for him. I'd been at my job for a few years at this point and had experienced all sorts of judges, so I was pretty sure that I could handle him. But, I also really wanted to get off on a good foot with him and show him that not only was I was a hardworker, but that I was good at my job.

The first few days of non-stop arraignments seemed to go just fine, so I was caught completely off guard on the fourth day when, out of the blue, Judge Hardass said, in a perfectly calm, quiet and measured tone, "Moi, everytime I make a decision on bail that you disagree with, I noticed that you roll your eyes. It's very subtle, but evident nonetheless. If you continue to do that, I'll hold you in contempt."

I could feel my face blanche and my heart dropped like a bowling ball into the pit of my stomach. I'd never had a judge make that sort of comment to me about my demeanor, let alone in open court. I was mortified. And, I was terrified, since I knew he'd do it; I'd heard stories of him holding attorneys in contempt in the past.

I stood completely still and tried to regain my composure. I took a deep breath, glanced up at Judge Hardass and murmured, "I apologize, Judge. I had no idea that I was doing that. It won't happen again."

For the rest of the morning, I was afraid to even blink, lest Judge Hardass interpret it as an eye roll. I barely moved my head from that point on. We were only about 45 minutes into arraignments and had at least another 2 hours to go and I wasn't sure how I was going to get through the next two hours without either crying or unknowingly rolling my eyes. Somehow, I managed to complete arraignments without doing either one.

Later on, when I thought about what he'd said, I realized that he was right. I was rolling my eyes, albeit unintentionally, and it was disrespectful. I learned a lot from Judge Hardass, although the time spent in his courtroom wasn't the most enjoyable, by any means.

But, apparently we had a mutual respect for one another as I later learned after accepting my next job as an associate at a law firm. Apparently, Judge Hardass had provided a glowing recommendation on my behalf when approached by one of the partners. Maybe he wasn't such a hardass after all.

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