Tag Archives: chambers

SECRETS REVEALED! What REALLY Goes on in the Judge’s Chambers…

In every courtroom there is a mystery door, usually in the back corner.  Within this door are the secrets of Court…

Stuart Miles /free digitalphotos.net

Litigants see the Judge and Lawyers disappear into this door. What seems like an eternity later, they emerge. Is one smiling? Does one have a scowl? What does it all mean?

These “chamber conferences” matter.  This is where the Judge hears what the case is about.  Each attorney is allowed a few minutes to tell their client’s side of the story, factually.  The Court hears legal arguments as to this issue and that issue.  In this conference the Judge may indicate what they are inclined to do.  This is actually a good thing, usually.

You find out whether or not you are fighting a losing battle, or whether there will even be a fight.

I had a case where the parties were fighting over “Legal Custody.” Legal custody is the decision making right regarding the child, such as education, medical and general welfare areas.  It’s extremely common for the parties to have Joint Legal Custody.  However, this particular lawyer and client would not agree to Joint Legal Custody.  It was about 2 minutes of discussion and the Judge said, “I almost always do Joint Legal Custody, unless there is a really good reason not to.”  There was not a good reason. That resolved the last remaining issue.

Sometimes the conferences go against you.  That causes questions of doubt between the lawyer and client. “Did my lawyer fight for my side?” You have to trust your lawyer and believe them. Also, they should advise you that the Judge indicated they were inclined to rule this way, but we can still have a hearing and we may be able to convince them otherwise. Probably not, but we may be able to. Ultimately, it is the client’s decision.

Usually, conferences help. It’s not underhanded nor improper if lawyers for both parties are participating.

Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney in Mississippi and usually welcomes Chamber Conferences.

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer Visit the website: Thompson Law Firm

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms

 

Child Testimony in Court

Whether a child should testify is a struggle in every instance when it arises.  I have previously blogged on the law, the Jethrow standard that the Court applies in determining the process of a child testifying.  (Click here).  Today’s is a practical view on how the Court conducts children testifying in a Civil case.

So, how does child testimony work?  Ultimately, it depends on the Judge.  I have seen the following;

1)  The Judge clears the Courtroom of all persons except the Judge, the Court Reporter and the child.

Here the Judge does the questioning.  The Judge is trying to determine the child’s truthfulness, their intellectual capacity for the retaining and reporting the information sought and whether is admissible and relevant.  This process takes as long as the court deems necessary.  I have stood in the hall for an hour while the Court conducts the interview.  Upon the Court concluding, the parties and lawyers are brought back in and the Judge summarizes the child’s testimony.  There may or may not be an opportunity for questioning.

2)  The Judge takes the child and the Court reporter to his/her chambers (office).

Again the Judge does the questioning, but it is in a less intimidating setting.  The judge’s office is usually much more “familiar” and personalized than the Courtroom.  Judge’s do this to put the child more at ease.  The relative same process of above is used, just in a different location.

3)  The Judge, the lawyers, the child and Court Reporter go into the Judge’s chambers.

Here the Judge let’s the lawyers do the questioning.  Now, the Judge is making sure that the lawyers maintain a respectful and appropriate tone and the child is not subject to interrogation or cross-examination in the true sense of the word, but the child is responding directly to the lawyers.  The Judge determines what is relevant and admissible in all instances.

And finally,

4)  The child takes the witness stand and is questioned by each lawyer and possibly the Judge, in the presence of the parents.  For a very young child this procedure will not be used.  For an older child, say 14 and up, this is more common.

Ultimately, the age of the child, the issues at hand and the wishes of the parent’s are the deciding factors in how the child testimony is handled.  The famous quote from the Jethrow case is;

“We reiterate that parents in a divorce proceeding should if at all possible refrain from calling any of the children of their marriage, of tender years at least, as witnesses, and counsel should advise their clients against doing so except in the most exigent cases. The reason and wisdom behind this precaution need no amplification. We also hold, however, as we must that no parent can be precluded from having a child of the marriage in a divorce proceeding testify simply because of that fact.” Jethrow v. Jethrow, 571 So.2d 270, 274 (Miss. 1990).

Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody Litigation Attorney in Mississippi.

Follow the blog: #BowTieLawyer  #Thompson Law Firm  You may also contact Matthew with your family law case or question at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms

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