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!