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- 2009 - April - 20th -

JBA Sidebar lunch program begins second year

Joe Wilhelm Jr.

A program that aims to improve communication between the bench and bar has moved into its second year, and the attendance continues to grow.

About 50 attorneys attended the Jacksonville Bar Association’s “Sidebar Luncheon” at the Duval County Courthouse Thursday. County Court Judges Roberto Arias, Kevin Blazs, Brent Shore, Ronald Higbee, Gary Flower, Russell Healey, Angela Cox and Eleni Derke attended the event. The program was developed to provide attorneys and judges a more casual atmosphere to talk about courtroom procedure and what judges expect from attorneys in the courtroom.

Previous luncheons hosted judges from Family, Civil, Circuit Felony, Juvenile and Dependency Courts, and Federal Magistrates.

Judges answered questions from the crowd regarding general courtroom procedure and the question that drew the most response from the judges was, “What are your pet peeves?”

“In civil cases, granting a continuance to a pro se attorney in the eleventh hour,” said Flower. “There are times when an attorney is assigned at the last minute and it is warranted, but some have four minutes where others have 40 days to prepare. Be prepared, and make sure you contact the pro se to make sure they know what’s going on before the trial.”

Drake would like to see attorneys be more honest with scheduling time.

“With telephonic hearings, where it is alleged the hearing will take 10-15 minutes, but then one side wants to admit testimony,” said Drake. “That won’t happen in 10-15 minutes. You need to be honest about time.”

Higbee hit on a universal pet peeve.

“Be on time,” said Higbee.

Other judges were frustrated with lawyers who don’t show up at all.

“So many lawyers just don’t show up,” said Derke. “Whatever the reason, just call and let us know what is happening.”

Communication has also caused a problem with another issue.

“Some attorneys feel a motion of dismissal will get back to us,” said Shore. “We will not see that piece of paper. The motion of dismissal will not notify us that we need to take a case off the calendar. Attorneys should notify the court once they have settled a case.”

Blazs reminded the audience that they needed to stay focused in the courtroom.

“In criminal cases, motion hearings sometimes drift into personal attacks,” said Blazs. “When that happens, I remind counsel to stay focused on the legal issues of the case.”

Shore provided a tip for both civil and criminal attorneys.

“If you are going to be arguing something substantive,” said Shore, “please make copies of the case law before you get to court.”

The judges may have had some different pet peeves, but they all agreed that most of the problems can be fixed with a phone call.

“Just call,” said Higbee. “Part of my goal is to make it easier for you. You’re out there running around. I’m here in the Courthouse. Let me know what I can do to help you. Call.”

jwilhelm@baileypub.com

356-2466

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