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Birmingham Bar Association Spring 2014

ting? Special settings. I don’t set hearings back to back because I like to think about it after hearing oral argument. Briefing preferences: No, just so long as you address negative authority. Not doing so impacts credibility. It’s very persuasive when you raise it and distinguish it. Courtesy copies? Yes on summary judgment. Let the other side know you are doing it. I usually pull the cases cited in a brief myself. But if you have one or two that you want to highlight then you can provide me a courtesy copy. But make sure you do the same for the other side. And the cases need to be in the brief already. Oral Argument? I will have read the brief, but I want to hear the whole story so cover everything but get down to the central issue. Oral argument gives me the comfort to ask questions and I can hear the parties actively addressing the other side’s position. I find it very persuasive when a lawyer is candid about the lack of authority or weaknesses in their argument. It leads me to believe that he/she is a reliable advocate. When you see a side that admits weakness but still believes and argues forcibly for their side, that is very persuasive. You are also so much more persuasive when you let the other side make their argument. You wouldn’t have said anything if the other side was making a bad point. Sit or Stand? Stand during oral argument. It makes clear who has the floor and keeps focus on the lawyer making the argument. It allows the lawyer to have my full attention. When everyone is sitting down, it makes everyone feel like they are in the same position and thus, can interject. You need to stand anytime you speak during a jury trial. Technology? I welcome you to use it in my courtroom. It can be very effective for demonstrative means if used properly during trial. However, it hurts your credibility if you are fumbling around with it or can’t get it working. Jurors are getting younger and younger so they aren’t going to cut you a break if you don’t know how to use your technology. Jury trials: Thirteen jury trials in 2013. Time restrictions? Not so far. I think that the juries exact their own punishment for this, so I haven’t needed to step in. I haven’t given time limits for oral argument either. Speaking objections? They are often appropriate and necessary. If somebody makes an objection, I let each party have their say in front of the jury. However, I don’t need an editorial on the facts. Continuances? One thing that I didn’t appreciate while practicing was that there is an organizational cost to the judge of moving a trial. We carefully craft our trial weeks and when a case doesn’t get tried, I have to find another place to put it that works well for everyone involved. When you file a motion to continue, you need to offer a week for the trial to be re-set in order to get it granted or have it considered. You also have to let me know if it is opposed or not. If one side can’t agree, then the Court has to set it for hearing. Discovery disputes? Typically, they are set a couple of weeks out so you have time to work it out. Standard expectations of lawyers? If you come to an agreement on something, I want you to memorialize it in the court file for purposes of the record. Any correspondence to the Court needs to be copied to the other side, including proposed orders, courtesy copies, etc. Provide it to the other lawyers in the same fashion as the judge. Fastest way to get on your bad side? When people don’t show up. I will go ahead with the hearing and I am going to rule. Advice to young lawyers appearing in your courtroom for the first time? Be prepared because you are creating your reputation. You never get a second chance to do that. As a Person Family: Married with three children. Proudest achievement? I am very proud to say that I am a Jefferson County circuit court judge. Free time? Parenting, hiking. My family and I have been to every park in the county. Work forever or retire? I don’t have a view of retirement as a goal line. JUDGE DONALD E. BLANKENSHIP As a Practitioner Legal Education: Graduated from Miles law school in 1989. Legal Career: I wanted to be a lawyer since age 12, but I got sidetracked by city planning. Received a master’s degree in urban studies from UAB; Was with the city of Birmingham from 1978- 1990; I was still with the city as a zoning administrator when I passed the bar. Gorham and Waldrep from 1990-1994 practicing land use law, real estate litigation and general civil litigation; From 28 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Spring 2014
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