As a Central and Syracuse New York accident lawyer, I religiously read the New York Times and other newspapers for news that affects my law practice. Today I read in the New York Times that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has not spoken for almost five years at oral argument in Court! He has not asked a single question of the many lawyers who appear before the highest Court in the land to argue cases. By contrast, many of his colleagues on the bench pepper lawyers with tough, piercing questions “right out of the box” (as soon as they start their argument).
So what’s better, a quiet judge or an inquisitive one? As a Central and Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer who argues appeals in Courts all over New York State, I have learned to appreciate the talkative type. Why? Because the questions usually tell me what problems the judge is having in adopting my reasoning. If I know the concerns he or she has, I can then customize my oral argument to try to get that judge past his or her mental roadblocks to ruling in my favor.
In fact, I regret that Juries aren’t allowed to ask me questions, too. There they sit, silent as lambs as I deliver my closing argument after trial. It’s a one-way street, with my verbal traffic going their way, and no traffic coming back. I feel like I have a sign on my forehead, “One Way – Do Not Enter”. I can’t know what they are thinking. I don’t know what problems they see with my case. If only we could talk about it. If only jurors could raise their hand and say, “But Mr. Bersani, what about . . . ?” — then I would have an opportunity to guide them gently over those bumps in the road to a favorable verdict.
Now don’t get me wrong; there are many good reasons for the rule prohibiting the jury from asking questions. I won’t go into those reasons here. But generally, “give and take”, isn’t that the best way to get to a well-reasoned result? And that’s why I welcome judges’ questions, even the tough ones. My response when I am “interrupted” by a judge with a question? “Judge, I am so glad you asked that. Let me explain . . .”
It’s been nice talking at you. Now feel free to talk back!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.