Vol. 41, No. 11
In and Around the Bar
The CBA’s Golden Book of Anecdotes and Wisdom—From Attorneys, For Attorneys
CBA senior attorneys (65+ years) are sharing anecdotes, advice, and guidance related to the practice of law. This is well-earned knowledge that might benefit less-experienced attorneys and provide guidance for new attorneys as they transition from law school and begin their legal career.
Send your contribution(s) by e-mail to email@example.com, using "Golden Book" in the subject line, or by U.S. mail to: Golden Book, c/o Leona Martínez, The Colorado Lawyer, 1900 Grant St., Ste. 900, Denver, CO 80203. The "Golden Book" collection of retrospections and advice is an ongoing effort, and submissions will continue to be printed in The Colorado Lawyer and posted online at www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/22110.
When I first started practicing law, one of the first attorneys I met was a crusty, cantankerous, independent individual. He ranted against the bar association, calling it "Birds of Prey that befoul their own nest."
A memorable incident occurred when he was trying a jury trial front of Judge William Black in Denver. An issue came up that he deemed improper. He moved for a mistrial. When his motion was denied, he walked to the jury box and told the first person to step out of the box. The juror promptly did exactly as told.
The attorney turned to Judge Black and said, "There are only eleven jurors in the box. I request a mistrial." Judge Black turned shades of red to purple and loudly said: "Granted! See me in my chambers."
Loud voices were heard emanating from the chambers. The attorney did not practice in front of Judge Black again.
* * *
Another attorney was trying a divorce case in Arapahoe County District Court. As part of his presentation, he pointed to the respondent husband and loudly said, "That reprobate hasn’t paid any child support!"
The judge interrupted him saying, "There is no legal penalty for being the reprobate, only for not paying child support. Don’t try to make points with me by using descriptive adjectives that do not enhance your case."
The lesson: Be careful what you say about opposing parties.
* * *
Judge Benjamin C. Hilliard, Jr. was a neighbor of mine. He was a very detailed judge. He was always on the bench at the exact minute the court schedule listed. He rode the bus to court and was an expert as to the bus schedules around town. He was very directional with any defendant or attorney who claimed to be late for a hearing or trial because of transportation. He would berate the attorney who was late, giving him or her the most convenient bus schedule and forcefully suggesting that the attorney use public transportation to appear at court on time at the next appearance date.
One day, I got a call from his clerk saying that Judge Hilliard wanted to personally see me immediately about the motion for default judgment I had filed. When I arrived at court, I was escorted by the clerk to Judge Hilliard’s chambers. He had a very stern look on his face as he handed to me my motion and order.
He asked, "Did you read that before you signed it?"
I replied, "I read the motion."
He said, "Read the order!"
I had told my legal secretary (legal secretaries were before paralegals were invented) to put on the order, "Let execution issue on the judgment." Instead of that simple sentence were the words: "Let the defendant be executed."
That embarrassment has served me to not only carefully read each motion, but also to carefully read the order that follows it.
—Jacques A. Machol, Jr.
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