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Wine, Cheese and Judges’ Pet Peeves

November 4, 2011

Wine, Cheese, Peeves
Wine, Cheese, Peeves

By Chelsea Halpine-Berger, 2L
Phi Alpha Delta, Clerk

Phi Alpha Delta’ s annual soiree, “Wine, Cheese, and Judges’ Pet Peeves,” held at the Hotel Indigo on November 1, attracted a substantial crowd of law students eager to find out what NOT to do in court.  Four Superior Court judges were there to reveal their biggest courtroom pet peeves and, per usual, they did not disappoint.

The Honorable Charles Hayes, a 24-year trial judge with a caseload of over 700 civil cases for the last 15 years, warned students not to talk or text on their phone in court.  Smartphone fanatics beware; there is nothing a judge dislikes more than you playing Angry Birds at trial.  God help you if you dare answer your phone in court!  Don’t laugh, it has happened.

The Honorable Carolyn Caietti, who had 19 years experience in civil litigation before being appointed to the bench in 2006, had some fashion advice for attorneys. Fortunately, it’s simple: Don’t look like a slob.  For some of the lawyers and clients in her courtroom, this is not such an easy task.  Although it may seem obvious, swim trunks are not allowed in the courtroom.  Ladies, do not look as if you are going on a date to Fluxx after court.  Gentlemen, please do not wear a suit that looks as if it has been wadded up and stored in a paint can in your trunk for the last month.  Much to our collective delight, all of the judges made a point to express how wonderfully dressed they thought all of the TJSL students were.  Bravo!

Courtroom etiquette was a huge topic of discussion.  Always address a judge as “Your Honor” in court.  Do not bicker with opposing counsel.  Keep the theatrics to a minimum.  Along those lines, don’t be long winded and get to the point.  BE ON TIME.  Stand up during direct and cross-examination.  The Honorable Garry Haehnle, a TJSL graduate and former District Attorney and Superior Court Commissioner, stressed the importance of being prepared and anticipating every step of trial. 

The question lurking in every law student’s mind was answered by The Honorable Timothy Walsh, who has been on the bench since 2005 after retiring from the Navy and spending 13 years in the District Attorney’s Office.  What is the single most important advice for new attorneys?  “You can’t explain to someone how to play the game of baseball.”  As law students, we can interpret this as meaning “You have to run the bases a few times, make a fool of yourself, perhaps even go on the DL, before you are really a baseball player.”  Ask a lot of questions, be a sponge, and do not be surprised at a few mistakes as you grow as an attorney.  That is why they call it “practice.”

The reception awaited upstairs at Level 9, where we snapped a few photos and socialized with the judges over a glass of wine and a stellar spread of cheese.  The words of wisdom continued to flow in small groups.  The comment that stuck with me most was simply the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.  This is a very simple sentiment that is often overlooked.  From dealings with opposing counsel, clerks, and ultimately the One In The Robe, think hard about how your actions reflect on you, your intentions, and ultimately affect your reputation. 

Hope to see you for Wine and Cheese next year!