Don’t Google the Judge
by Alicia Hutchinson, Esq.
If you’ve got a family part case coming up, take my advice: don’t Google the judge.
Here’s why “Googling” the judge is a bad idea if you are a litigant.
- Most reviews are written by people who are unhappy, just generally. I don’t mean just for legal professionals—I mean any kind of review at all, from that t-shirt you bought online to that restaurant where you ate yesterday. And almost nobody walks out of family court happy, even when they have just gotten an extremely fair result that is in accordance with case and statutory law. So you are starting with people who are very unhappy to begin with, EVEN when they have gotten a result I or any other family law attorney would look and go “that’s fair.”
- Often, they are unhappy because the judge did something they are, by Court Rules or case law, required to do, or at least strongly encouraged to do. For example: “This review says the judge didn’t let her speak and have her day in court.” I can practically guarantee you that person didn’t file a response and thought they would just show up in court and ask for what they wanted there. As we’ve discussed previously this isn’t just how family cases work in New Jersey. Another one I hear (and read!) a lot is “the judge used full time income for me even though I only work part time!” Again, that’s what the Court Rules and Child Support Guidelines say the judge is SUPPOSED to do unless there is a very good reason not to.
- When researching dining options, you have some choice of where you will be having dinner. When you’re about to have a hearing in family court, you have no choice about what judge gets your case. When I was a law clerk, one of the more frustrating reoccurring issues I had was dealing with what we called “judge shoppers.” They had a hearing before some other judge years ago and it went mostly their way so now they think that judge likes them, so they want their case to go to that judge please (never mind that the judge in question may not be in the Family Part anymore.) They appeared before this judge before and didn’t like the result so now they think the judge personally hates them. They had a friend before this other judge and liked her so now they want to appear before her too. They didn’t want to appear before the judge they were scheduled to appear before, in sum, and they were going to call and plead and beg and write letters until someone else took the case. Which did not happen. Not unless there was a conflict between the assigned judge and the case.
“I don’t want that judge” is simply not grounds for having the case transferred to someone else. You just don’t have a choice of which judge hears your case. I don’t have a choice of what judge hears my cases, either. Of course, if you believe the judge has a legitimate conflict of interest, you should certainly make the judge’s chambers aware of that as soon as possible because then it should be heard by someone else, or even transferred to a different county in some cases—but you still won’t pick who your case goes to if he or she agrees with you.
If you are anxious about the outcome of your case, it is far better to consult with a family law attorney about what can be done to build the strongest case possible for the relief you want—something that is within your control.
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The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.