Knowing the Judge in Florida
What does “knowing the judge” really mean?
There is a saying that says something along the lines of “A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyers knows the judge.” Without having a legal background or an understanding of the system one might think that there is a sense of shadiness to that statement. In other words do judges give preferential treatment to their friends, the people that know them? Unfortunately, this is a misinterpretation of the saying. Knowing the Judge is an expression that simply means that the lawyer has practiced long enough to understand the judge’s tendencies. He knows what types of motions are favored. He knows how the judge typically sentences. He know the evidence that may be excluded. The list goes on an on.
But you get the point. Knowing the Judge is simply using the judges past and current behavior to help guide a client more carefully through the system.
Example of how “knowing the judge” can help your case: Let’s take two lawyers.
Lawyer one is a somewhat new lawyer. However he is incredibly skilled and hard working. This lawyer is actually more of a skilled trial attorney than lawyer two. However, Lawyer one hasn’t been around long enough to figure out the patterns of each judge. In fact, this lawyer hasn’t even appeared before all or even most of the judges in your county. Now let’s assume you go to this lawyer with a petit theft with 2 priors. Let’s assume the client only scores 25 points (putting him in the discretionary prison range).
Now let’s assume that the State attorney is offering 51 weeks in jail. Let’s assume the Defendant doesn’t want to take this. The Defendant is willing to take 3-6 months, but 51 weeks is simply too much. So the lawyer says, “we can always take it to trial. If we lose you still don’t score prison and we could argue for a low jail sentence.” Lawyer one doesn’t know that this judge is an incredibly fair sentencer on pleas to the bench where the person takes accountability. The Lawyer also doesn’t know that this judge hates thieves who refuse to take responsibility. This judge is known to sentence incredibly harshly on petit theft cases after a loss at trial. Lawyer one takes it to trial and loses. The judge sentences the Defendant to 3 years in prison with 2 years of probation to follow. Lawyer one is dumbfounded. He doesn’t even score prison!? Lawyer one may be a skilled practitioner but he doesn’t know the judge and it cost his client dearly.
Assuming the same fact pattern but with Lawyer two now instead of lawyer one. Lawyer two is a less skilled trial practitioner. But what lawyer two has is the experience in the system. He knows the patterns and tendencies of the judges. Lawyer knows that 3-6 months is definitely doable with a plea to the bench in front of this judge, understanding that the judge really values efficiency and taking responsibility for your actions. Lawyer two sets the case for a plea to the bench with multiple witnesses who can come to court and testify on the Defendant’s behalf. At sentencing the judge finds the Defendant remorseful and finds the witnesses compelling, sentencing him to 3 months in jail. In this example, lawyer two got 3 months in jail for the same client that received 3 years in prison with lawyer one. Same case, same judge, different results. Knowing the judge is obviously very important.
Knowing the judge can produce big differences:
As you can see, knowing the judge can produce big differences in outcomes. It’s not about a “personal relationship” with the judge, but more about understanding what the lawyer should or shouldn’t do in each courtroom. Helping to understand these tendencies will often produce more favorable outcomes for clients and will help with the overall ease of the criminal process.