Knowing the Law is Good, Knowing the Judge is Better

Happy Friday, everybody. Wanted to spend a minute today and talk to you about a very important part of advocating for your client that a lot of lawyers know, some lawyers don’t really think about it as much. And that’s knowing your judge. It’s important that when you’re going into a hearing, when you’re going into a trial, when you’re going into a setting, whatever that setting may be, not only do you need to know the law, but you also need to know your judge. You need to know exactly what it is that that judge expects.

And so I’ll use an example based on something that happened to me just not too long ago. I had a client that was facing a DWI here in one of the North Texas courts. And we were going in front of a judge that I had been in front of many, many times before. I’ve tried cases in front of. And more importantly, I’ve had clients who have violated bond conditions in front of this judge. And that’s what this hearing was. My client had violated a bond condition. His interlock device had tested positive. So he had been drinking alcohol, even though he wasn’t supposed to be while the case was pending.

So having been in front of this judge before, I knew what to expect, I knew the questions that he would be asked. And so before we went into the hearing, I sat my client down and I grilled him. I went through, these are the questions you’re going to hear. And the first couple of times the client answered, I knew, based on my experience with this judge, that judge is not going to like that answer. I mean, period. They’re just not. I know that this judge, he doesn’t want to hear excuses. He doesn’t want to hear, “Well, my wife cooked a bourbon meatballs and the alcohol must not have cooked out.”

They don’t want to hear that. They want to hear exactly what happened. Admit that you screwed up, because the judge knows it. Don’t insult his intelligence. Own it. Apologize. And then explain to the judge why it won’t happen again. That’s what this judge specifically cares about. He doesn’t really care about the violation so much. He does, but it’s really more about you go in there and you own your mistakes.

So I got him ready for that. We went inside the courtroom. We sit down. And it just so happened that the person that was called right before my client was, was another individual with a DWI who had a bond violation. And their lawyer, I don’t know if it was just simply they didn’t have time or they weren’t aware of what this judge does on a typical hearing like this, this client was not informed. He had no idea that these were the questions that he’d be receiving. He was just kind of thrown to the wolves, as it were.

And so the judge starts peppering him with these questions that I knew were coming, because he asks everybody these same questions. And he didn’t have good answers. He had terrible answers. And so ultimately, unfortunately, it ended up that individual was taken into custody. His bond was held insufficient. He was thrown in jail. And he had to post a new bond. He eventually got out, but he had to post a new bond and go through all that. So we watched that happen.

My client gets called up. The judge asks the questions that I knew were coming. My client gives the answers that he and I had discussed. He admitted his mistake. He said, “Judge, this was my fault. I messed up. Here’s what happened. I won’t lie to you. It won’t happen again. I’m enrolling in AA. I’m going to get something done to make sure I don’t have an issue here. And I’m taking charge of this issue.” The judge looked at him and said, “Sir, I really appreciate your honesty. Thank you so much for owning your mistake. I’m not going to take any action, but don’t let it happen again.” That was it.

And so you had these two different instances, very different results. And the only difference was one client was prepped, one client was not. And so it’s incredibly important that if you get called in front of a judge that you’ve never practiced in front of before, call a local lawyer who is familiar with that courtroom. Talk to them. Ask them. I guarantee you that most lawyers are not going to have any issue whatsoever telling you, “Hey, here’s what to expect.”

If you have a case in Collin, Denton, Dallas County, and you don’t know what a certain judge is going to do in a criminal case, call me. I don’t mind telling you, “Hey, I’ve been in front of that judge so many times. Here’s what they’re going to want to hear. Here’s what they’re going to want to know. And more importantly, here’s what to tell your client to expect.” Because really, I think most clients can stomach bad situations, or bad results, if they at least know they’re coming ahead of time. So it’s super important.

So keep that in mind. Like I said, knowing your judge is vital. Knowing what your judge wants, what your judge likes, what your judge expects is all key. And so if you really want to effectively advocate for your client, it’s important that if you’re in a courtroom that you’ve never been in front of before, call some local lawyers, figure out what is this judge like. So that way you can prep yourself and you can prep your client walking into the courtroom. Neither one of you are going in blind.

That’s all for today. As always, if you have any questions or comments, or, more importantly, if you have a topic that you want to see me cover in a upcoming video, throw a comment down below, send me an email, send me a call, whatever the case may be. I’m happy to talk to you. I’m happy to answer any questions that I can, whether it’s about criminal law or otherwise. There’s some fun topics out there. I don’t mind covering them. I just got to know that it’s something you want to hear. So I hope everybody out there is staying safe, staying productive. And I look forward to talking to you all next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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