There is an old, sophomoric saying, “It’s better to know the judge than to know the law.” The implications of this saying seem to suggest that somehow knowing a judge, perhaps on a personal or friendship level, paves the way for better results in the courtroom. As justice is “blind,” this saying connotates potentially unethical outcomes based on familiarity with your judge. This is obviously wrong, and a judge would certainly need to recuse himself or herself if there was a relationship significant enough to give a whiff of potential impropriety.
The above stated being said, it is important for attorneys and litigants in a divorce or custody situation to have knowledge of the judges they will be in front of. In Colorado, family law cases are not heard by juries. There is one person deciding how to deal with the facts and circumstances of each case and rendering a ruling. One must keep in mind that judges are human. One must also keep in mind that being human, judges may have individual view points on certain issues, such as parenting time for fathers, a person’s ability to work as relates to child support, or how a certain statutory section is interpreted. As an attorney, one must try to ascertain the realm of likely possibilities before each individual judge and understand what facts or arguments that judge is more likely than not to entertain or find important.
When your attorney says, “Well, I think this judge will rule this way on this issue,” the attorney is speaking from experience, courtroom knowledge, or information passed down from other attorneys. The attorney gives this guidance with the goal of assisting you in making decisions about how to proceed in your case. The attorney should be speaking from the standpoint of having your best interest in mind. When someone in a divorce case situation believes his or her attorney is truly looking out for him or her, that person should take the attorney’s advice to heart in terms of how to wade through the courtroom or litigation phase of the case, including whether to even proceed with hearing on a given day. We generally know the right move to make and are truly trying to help you. The point is that our experience and insights, coupled with familiarity regarding the courts we practice in helps you. That is our primary goal.
There is another old saying, “Knowledge is power.” Use your attorney’s knowledge to gain some power in a stressful and uncertain time.