Tuesday, September 28, 2010

8 O'Clock Call

One thing I’ve always liked about the Chicago Bar Association is that it’s a place where lawyers can get to know Judges one-on-one, outside the formal, sometimes uncomfortable setting of the courtroom. Since 2006, the CBA has made it easy for members to get to know our local Judges by hosting a series of “8 a.m. Calls” -- short, informal question and answer panels on a Friday morning at 8 a.m., over in time to get us all off to court or to our offices by 9 a.m.

The 8 a.m. Calls give us a chance to ask Judges what they really think -- about trial lawyers, the court system, anything. At the Friday, Septemebr 24 8 O'Clock Call, we met with three Judges from the Law Division of the Circuit Court, Hon. James P. Flannery and Hon. Thomas L. Hogan of the Jury Trial Section, and Hon. Bill Taylor of the Individual Commercial Calendar Section. CBA Past President, Hon. E. Kenneth Wright, Jr., Presiding Judge of the First Municipal District, led the discussion.

From left are Judge Bill Taylor, Judge Thomas Hogan,
Judge James Flannery and,
at the podium, Judge E. Kenneth
Wright, Jr.

We learned that Judges don’t like lawyers who don’t admit that they don’t know the answers to the Judge’s questions. They want us either to be prepared to answer their questions -- even if we’re sent in to appear on a case that isn’t our case -- or to be straight with them, let them know we’re covering for someone else and that we don’t know the answer to the question but we’d be happy to step out into the hall and make a call to get the answer.

We also learned that juries expect lawyers to be courteous to witnesses. One thing jurors expect is that a lawyer will ask the Judge’s permission to approach a witness.

We learned that the Law Division tries 450-550 jury cases a year, and that there are more civil jury verdicts in the Law Division in two weeks than in our federal District Court in a year.

We learned that Category 1 cases in the Law Division -- cases expected to take 4 days or less to try -- comprise 85% of the cases filed in Division and typically get to the close of discovery in 20-22 months. Category 2 cases -- which will take a week or more to try -- typically get through discovery in 32 months.

The Judges also gave us tips for getting to trial once a case rises “above the Black Line” and goes to Room 2006:

           Agree upon a trial date and you can get a set trial date within 60-90 days.

           Ask (in Room 2005) for a pretrial before any Judge in the Division, and if the case doesn’t settle that Judge may take you onto his or her regular calendar and set a trial date.

We’ll have several of these 8 a.m. Calls throughout the year -- come join us and get all your questions answered!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Justice Stevens Returns to the CBA

The CBA Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Over 650 CBA members assembled in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel on the evening of Sept. 15 to honor one of our own -- Justice John Paul Stevens -- in his first return to Chicago since retiring from the United States Supreme Court this summer. We celebrated his career of service, and also honored the two 2010 recipients of the John Paul Stevens Award, Judge Wayne Andersen and Judge Sophia Hall. 

From left: Stevens Award winner Judge Wayne Andersen,
Justice John Paul Stevens, Stevens Award winner Judge
Sophia Hall and me.
Justice Stevens spoke of his views on the misguided attempts to use history by the majorities in four recent decisions of the Court which stuck down gun control laws, including McDonald v. City of Chicago, decided this past term. Of the McDonald decision, Justice Stevens said: “[T]he most persuasive history on which the Court relied to support its holding that the constitutional right at issue is truly ‘fundamental’ is its account of the post-Civil War atrocities committed by the Ku Klux Klan and other racists against African-Americans whom they out-gunned. Implicit in the discussion is the suggestion that rather than allowing the government to disarm the law-breakers, the draftsmen of the 14th Amendment wanted all the adversaries to have adequate weaponry for a fair fight.” (The full text of Justice Stevens’ remarks will appear in the next issue of the CBA Record.)

Proclamation making the Justice
"Honorary President" of the Association

The CBA Board of Managers honored Justice Stevens’ long service to the Association by presenting him with a resolution naming him Honorary President of the Chicago Bar Association. Justice Stevens, tongue in cheek, graciously accepted after extracting the CBA’s promise that we would not require him to resign from any of his country club memberships in order to serve. Justice Stevens also eagerly accepted Young Lawyers Section Chair Jill Eckert McCall’s resolution naming him “Honorary Young Lawyer in Perpetuity.” The Justice said that resolution had special meaning for him, because his brother, who he credits for persuading him to go to law school, had served as the Young Lawyer Committee’s representative on the  Board of Managers.

With his lifelong friend Judge William Bauer
Before and after dinner, we were entertained by the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and after dinner we enjoyed the music of the Barristers Big Band. It was a great reunion between the CBA and one if its own, Justice John Paul Stevens.    
Jill Eckert McCall announces the YLS proclamation making the Justice
a "Young Lawyer in Perpetuity"

On the dais were, Judge Timothy Evans (l), Judge Sophia Hall
and CBA Secretary J. Timothy Eaton