Thank you note for judge?
February 1, 2014 7:52 AM   Subscribe

He went above and beyond. I can't tell you details about the sensitive and personal case that he heard last (he announced "cases x and y will be last"), thereby ensuring the courtroom was cleared. Besides just being an awesome person. Would I be allowed to send him a heartfelt note of thanks? If it matters, he is a county judge.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Law & Government (15 answers total)
I wouldn't.

This is a very sweet thought, but the bottom line is that the judge was just doing what s/he is supposed to do. Moreover, if you send a note to the court, you might actually run the risk of creating trouble for him or her. If I were involved in the case as your opponent, if I learned about the thank you note I might wonder if this suggested bias, or even that the judge had some sort of relationship with you which biased them in some way.

If you're really set on doing this, I might call the county courthouse and ask to speak to the judge's receptionist or clerk. Tell them (without mentioning your case or name) that you really appreciated the judge's hard work on a case you were involved in, and ask THEM if they thought it might be appropriate for you to send a thankyou note.

Oh, and you can always vote for them next time they come up for re-election, if you think they're doing a good job as county judge!
posted by arnicae at 8:24 AM on February 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait until the case is over forever, by which I mean you know it won't be appealed and sent back to him. Or, if you have a lawyer, ask your lawyer. The issue is something called ex parte communication: one party may not privately communicate with the judge. If you know for sure the judge's role in the case is over, this is fine and appropriate, and it's not uncommon, for example, for lawyers to write the judge, saying something about the experience of being in that courtroom. This answer is provided without context; the general rule is don't send the judge private communications while they are hearing your case.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sending a thank you note to a judge defeats the entire purpose of judges.
posted by Sphinx at 8:38 AM on February 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

i wouldn't, but if you do, don't put anything in the note that would embarrass you if the opposing side saw it, because s/he might have to disclose the note and its contents if you ever return to that courtroom.
posted by bruce at 8:54 AM on February 1, 2014

Yeah, the thing is, you can never guarantee that you'll never need to have something related to you heard by that same judge again, and if they're a good egg, you'd hate to have them perceived as biased in your favor.
posted by Sequence at 9:08 AM on February 1, 2014

Maybe you send a note that presents you as a person who was sitting in the courtroom as an observer, maybe you are just interested in the law as it is practiced. You could say something like you were impressed with his sensitivity in the more personal cases as an outside, disinterested party. You don't have to sign your name.
posted by Jazz Hands at 9:31 AM on February 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think it preferable to ask your lawyer to orally communicate your thoughts to the judge's administrative assistant at an appropriate time.
posted by yclipse at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

you're not allowed to have any ex parte communications with the judge. Anything you send to him needs to be cc'ed to opposing counsel. Talk to your attorney before you say or do anything. I do like the idea of an annonymous note from a "disinterested" party though. People do deserve recognition for a job well done.
posted by katypickle at 10:51 AM on February 1, 2014

Don't do this. You'll cause trouble for the judge and the case.
posted by ewiar at 10:56 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't thank the judge. The judge gets thanked twice a month, by direct deposit. In addition to any legal consequences you might unwittingly create by writing thank you letter, it's also often seen as culturally improper to thank judges for being judges. His judiciousness was not a favor to you. It was an expression of how he approaches his job. His job requires that he avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2014

For people who are saying that this is the whole point of having judges, yes, but at the same time people need to know occasionally that what they are doing is appreciated and important. If the affected people don't occasionally actually tell them that they may think it doesn't really matter.

So I agree with the people who are saying you can do something but you must wait until the case is completely over and appeals have been completely exhausted, or you can talk to your lawyer about what to do. I think another possible option that you could do NOW is write a short note to the chief judge of the court that your judge serves on -- I'm sure that info is available on the Internet. I think the chief judge is not exactly the supervisor/manager of all the other judges, but is the closest thing that comes to it, and they all occasionally have meetings together. You could write the chief judge a note saying that such and such a judge had a case involving xxxxx issue before him/her and made a point of having that case heard last and clearing the courtroom of other people beforehand, and that you were one of the people affected by that decision and that it meant so much to you because [list all of your reasons].

Then at least the chief judge knows that being sensitive to sensitive issues is really, really important to someone, and s/he can pass on this information if s/he chooses at the next judge meeting, and s/he may or may not say something to your judge in passing later if it's appropriate. In this way your note could also possibly affect other judges in this court by showing them how important this small consideration was to you. Good luck to you.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:47 AM on February 1, 2014

Though you should probably check with your lawyer first about writing to the chief judge as well! I don't think it's ex parte communication because the chief judge isn't making any decisions about your case, but it doesn't hurt to check with your lawyer first.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2014

Maybe you send a note that presents you as a person who was sitting in the courtroom as an observer, maybe you are just interested in the law as it is practiced. You could say something like you were impressed with his sensitivity in the more personal cases as an outside, disinterested party. You don't have to sign your name.

Please don't do this. You're not lying, but you're then presenting yourself in a false light, in addition to the problems people have mentioned above.

I completely agree with onlyconnect, though - write to the chief judge & any other relevant higher-level judges. F.ex, if you were in Ontario, I'd point you to the Ontario Court of Justice, and you'd probably also want to address it to the Associate Chief Justice - Coordinator of Justices of the Peace. Google your province/state and something like "court structure" to get an idea of who you want. Then, if it's appropriate, the Chief will share it with your judge.

As everyone said, talk to your lawyer about it first. If you didn't have one, you could probably call your state's bar association or the court's public liaison person to ask about it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:47 PM on February 1, 2014

I'll chime in and say no, don't do this while you've got a case in front of this judge. On the other hand, if the judge was actually being sensitive and thoughtful, that is really worth something in a world where I've seen much of the acrimony and antagonism in a courtroom coming from the bench rather than the parties or the attorneys.

Maybe wait until your case is done forever, then volunteer for his re-election campaign.

(Bear in mind that if this is a divorce case with kids, your case is not over until the child support obligations end.)
posted by mibo at 1:40 PM on February 1, 2014

I appreciate all the input. I actually suspected as much. It is nice to know there are kind and smart public servants, isn't it?
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2014

« Older The Origin of Cathy Ames   |   Katie Roiphe quote Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.