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Bulletin Summer 2013

Practice Tips Former Judge R.A. (Sonny) Ferguson, Jr. ings You Want to Know About Your Judge But AreAfraid To Ask e practice of law presents many rewar ding and challenging aspects. In addition to the legal education one receives from books, lectures and the licensing process, most lawyers who frequent the Courts and participate in a trial practice need more. Not only are you called upon to be a counselor, a communicator, a businessman or woman, you also need to know your judges or as some would say, the lay of the land. Each Court in the various circuits and their judges have their own way of doing things and expect the lawyers to know their procedures or their likes and dislikes on matters that come before them. Of all the tools lawyers need, knowledge of your judges may be the one piece of information that can make a meaningful di„ erence in your case and how you are perceived by your judge. is information highway becomes a two way street as the judges also seek information about the lawyers who practice before them. is article will not try to address the judges’ side of the street on lawyers, but will try to disclose important information about the Domestic Judges in Je„ erson County and surrounding counties (Shelby, St. Clair and Blount). As is generally the case, lawyers want to know their judge’s feelings on various subjects and tools that can, and in some cases, should be used to help you and your clients move their case to a speedy and successful conclusion. e objective of this article was to get our judges to discuss their use of and their position on various tools available to the courts and the parties through their lawyers. e areas of discussion included such things as the use of a daily master; when and if a special master should be appointed; settlement conferences; mediation dockets; mediation in general; special setting of cases and the new kid on the block, Private Judging. To accomplish this task, the judges were interviewed separately and I, for one, was surprised at how similar our judges think on these practice areas, yet how different each of them approach matters. In an e„ ort not to single out a particular judge, this article will present positions or tendencies by counties, not the individual judge. Any of you who practice in these counties should already know most of the information or may be surprised or misinformed about several areas because some of the judge are new to the bench or the area is new and untested. e one area on which all the judges will agree is the continuance of cases and especially those that are specially set. With the backlog of cases, if you convince your judge to give you a special setting, keep in mind the judge is carving out speciŒ c time for you and your clients and in most cases it would be for multiple days. Lawyers! If you know your case will settle or need to be continued or re-assigned to a Private Judge, please be considerate and let the trial court know as soon as possible. at reserved slot can be Œ lled with other deserving cases. at means more than 24, 48 or even 72 hours in advance. As a practical matter, that would be a good rule of thumb on all continuances. Another common ground of the judges would be the use of a special master and private mediation. ose options are used sparingly and generally, only on request by the lawyers. As one reads Rule 53 ARCP, it too would suggest the use of a special master be the exception, rather than the rule. Mediation has now been around since the early 90s and has generally not been forced on the lawyers or their clients. at being said, Shelby County judges will not set their cases for trial unless the lawyers and parties participate in 30 Birmingham Bar Association


Bulletin Summer 2013
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