I sat down with Judge Morrison England Jr., of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.
We discussed his “non-traditional” path to the bench – you will have to listen to the podcast to for more information about his interesting background. He also provided advice, insights, and observations for attorneys appearing before him.
In particular, he gave a couple of pieces of advice that stood out to me. One, he urged attorneys and judges “Don’t try to bluff your way through a situation. If you don’t know, just say so.” He noted that this kernel of knowledge came to him when he was making a challenging transition from being a transactional attorney to a California Superior Court judge.
Another great piece of advice that he gave, that seems obvious but many attorneys do not heed, is to read the scheduling orders that you are given. As he noted, in the federal court, the dates and timelines that you are given in the scheduling order are not easily modified. Once the deadlines are set, they are set. There is no wiggle room except for in extraordinary circumstances.
A few other key pieces of advice that he offered were: “Be prepared. Know your case. Know the law. And if you’re wrong or if you have a bad point, fall on the sword and accept it.” He pointed out that a great way for attorneys to distinguish themselves is to to acknowledge bad facts or adverse authority and then point out how those facts or cases are irrelevant or distinguishable.
We also discussed at length how technology is changing courtroom practice. The days of bringing bankers boxes full of binders of exhibits and depositions are now over, and instead, attorneys are now expected to bring a thumb drive, and perhaps one box of exhibits, to the courtroom.
I hope you enjoy listening to my conversation with Judge England. Be sure to tune in next time.