I appeared in court today on a civil matter. Downtown. Supposedly the second largest courthouse in the world, where the judges allegedly outwork the lawyers and lack the resources and time to work through the huge volume of cases on their calendars. If I faced unending piles of work and unrelenting pressure, I would be stressed out too. But I would not take out my anger on two lawyers who were doing me a favor by agreeing to remove a case from my courtroom and to go instead to private arbitration.
The insurmountable workload could plausibly explain the foul mood this judge was in this Monday morning. She was so extremely rude to opposing counsel and to me – mostly to opposing counsel because she was angry at him for not zealously prosecuting his case (I represent the defendant). She was so unpleasant – even after we informed her that our clients have agreed to arbitrate – she screamed at us, “you’re too late!! You’re going to trial!!!” – as if going to trial is some form of cruel and unusual punishment, which for me at least, it is anything but.
Eventually, we explained the statute (CCP Section 1280, et seq.) our clients had elected to arbitrate under. As she read our stipulation, she could not find any fault with it, and even after we politely pointed out to her that she was flat-out wrong about the law, she still did not change her nasty, impatient demeanor. As she grilled us, I looked at the many pictures of her with her children on her desk and bookcase, and I thought to myself that I do not know what I would have done had I grown up with a mother like that. “Go ahead! File what you need to file! All I can say is what a waste of money. Too bad we’re not on the record so that everyone else out there can hear this!,” she screamed at us as we finally left her chambers.
I agree with her, that the plaintiff in our case has spent a lot of money pushing a lawsuit through a courthouse over the last year for almost no damn reason, except to agree to arbitrate on the eve of trial. But to me, that does not excuse her viciously unprofessional temperament. To me, taking abuse from stressed out judges is not something I ever imagined or wanted to experience when I went to law school. Why do they call this the “civil” system when it is anything but? I may never find all the answers to that question, but at least now I know why all the other lawyers in that courtroom were so nervously sitting, waiting for their cases to be called.