I was sitting in District Court in Howard County today. Howard County District Court is one of those jurisdictions where each judge is assigned a permanent courtroom. Judge Brown is in Courtroom 2, Judge Brooks is in Courtroom 1, etc.… This means that, as a practicing attorney, I am familiar enough with the jurisdiction that I know which Judge I have based on the courtroom assignment. Today I had a couple of cases scheduled in Courtroom 3. Judge Mary Reese is usually the presiding Judge in this courtroom. However, today Judge Reese was out and we had a visiting Judge, Judge Neil Axel.
Judge Axel, like almost all visiting Judges, is a retired Judge. Judge Axel retired from Howard County District Court exactly five years ago today (February 28, 2013), and he has been missed. Judge Axel is one of my absolute favorite Judges in the State of Maryland, and I am not alone in this opinion. Judge Axel was always one of the most learned jurists who you could go in front of. He had an extremely firm grasp on all of the laws, rules, and regulations that he was supposed to interpret. When he did encounter an unfamiliar statute, he was not afraid to admit that he did not know it perfectly and do the necessary legal research. He was always imminently fair in his decision-making. Most importantly, Judge Axel always treated everyone who appeared in front of him, whether Defendant, Attorney, Police Officer, or anyone else with respect.
Most people, without a significant amount of experience with the judicial system, don’t appreciate how much individual personalities determine the outcome of a case. Different judges have different experiences, expectations, and interpretations. Issues that seem insignificant to one judge can determine the ultimate resolution of a case to a different judge. Some judges are more willing to find Defendant’s testimony to be credible over a police officer, whereas other judges will rarely if ever make such a credibility determination.
Even ignoring differences in interpretation of law and findings of fact, judicial temperament makes an enormous difference in how a citizen feels when they interact with the judicial system. When a judge treats a person with respect, it bolsters that persons respect for the judicial process, even if the process does not go in their favor. Conversely, when a judge treats a person with disrespect, it will taint their view of the process, even if the court case works out in their favor.
What does all of this mean for a person with a legal case in Maryland? The most important lesson that a person should take from this post is that it is extremely important for your lawyer to be familiar with the Judge who is hearing your case. Hiring a lawyer who is unfamiliar with the jurisdiction where the case is being heard is not a formula for success. If your lawyer does not know the Judge, how can they tell which arguments or strategies will be most. The legal system is not a one size fits all system. Individual personalities can be the difference between a finding of guilt or an acquittal. When you are looking for a lawyer, make sure that the lawyer that you hire is familiar with all of the Judges in the jurisdiction where the case will be heard.
Call Azari Law, LLC today at 301.362.3300.