Flattering Judges: The Next Steps
When Part 1 of this guide concluded, I left you sitting in a bar next to a judge who, because of your skillful flattery, was already feeling very good about himself.
You’d engaged him in conversation, laughed at his jokes, even complimented him on being a hard worker.
So what’s next? As you find yourself settling in for a long afternoon of trying to stay awake during the judge’s “war stories,” what’s the best way to keep your waterfall of judicial adulation flowing at full strength?
According to some commentators, it’s now time to offer the judge an expensive gift.
You’ll be surprised to learn I don’t agree with this approach. The trouble with giving judges expensive gifts is that it seems too much like bribery. You’re not seeking a bar complaint, remember, much less an opportunity to rub elbows with Dickie Scruggs; you’re merely trying to make a judge see you in a new light, so that he thinks twice the next time he’s about to throw a file at you, or call you a moron in open court, or hold you in contempt because you’ve forgotten to show up a third time for the hearing on your opponent's motion to dismiss.
The Problem of Sincerity
When you flatter a judge, you have to mean it. In addition, your flattery must bear at least a hint of plausibility. Let me give you an example.
Gill was surprised when the room grew hushed. What Gill didn’t know was that he was addressing the judge who presided over the city’s traffic docket.
Spotting Gill as a faker, the judge was understandably outraged. Later that day, he complained to Gill’s bosses, who decided Gill should never get close to a judge again. Gill was prohibited from going to court and given a choice: either become a transactional lawyer or head up a document production in Nebraska.
Gill took the only option that allowed him a shred of dignity. He’s now passing the time in Omaha, living out of a hotel room and compiling 1,000-page privilege logs.
Don’t let it happen to you. How can you insure your flattery is sincere?
As I’ve said already, when you flatter a judge, you have to mean it. Since generally you won’t mean it, this requires a second important mind trick. Knowing you don’t mean it, you must make yourself believe you do.
Flattering Judges: How to Make Yourself Believe
As long as the judge believes that you believe your flattery, you’ll be on fairly safe ground. It’s actually a simple process. All you have to do is put yourself in the judge’s shoes. You have to think like he thinks and feel what he feels. You have to be, in a word, empathetic.
“Empathy,” you’re surely thinking, “for a judge?”
That’s right. Empathy for a judge. Here’s why. Empathy for the judge will lead to pity for the judge. Pity for the judge will cause you to feel sorry the judge. It’s at this point that your flattery will seem heartfelt—not because it is, necessarily, but because your dour thoughts about the judge’s sad life will have you wanting to believe your compliments are true.
“The judge’s sad life?” you ask.
That’s right. His sad life.
Think about it. Each day, as the judge heads off to work, he knows he’ll be receiving many rousing hellos, slaps on the back, playful punches on the arm—while not knowing if any of these things are truly heartfelt.
Although the judge might have a few friends, he sometimes wonders if these friends—even his lifelong buddies from grade school—are really his friends at all. What if they’re just keeping him around in the event they need a favorable ruling? Even his own wife (or in the case of a female judge, her own husband) is probably sticking around mainly for the prestige of being married to a judge.
You see what I mean? What a miserable existence! Doesn’t it make you feel sorry for judges in general, and by extension, the judge you’re hoping to flatter?
If your answer is yes, you’re well on your way towards flattering judges with true sincerity.
Two Final Examples of Judicial Flattery, Good and Bad
Good: “In my opinion, Judge, you’re one of the wisest jurists since Solomon. I’ve never known you to make a bad decision.”
Bad: “You smell really good today, Judge. Much better than usual.”
If you can’t tell the difference between these two examples of judicial flattery, you should give up your courtroom ambitions for something more attainable.
Why not work as the fry cook at a burger joint, sell used cars to unsuspecting consumers, or produce amateurish Internet videos that lawyers can say they watched to fulfill their CLE obligations?
Your clients, if you have any, will thank you for it. So will our nation’s jurists, who truly want to believe in the fiction of a lawyer’s flattery, but find it impossible when lawyers can’t figure out how to do it right.