I recently had one of the most disturbing experiences I’ve ever had as a lawyer…..I was threatened by a judge who was coming over his desk and glaring and scowling at me in a very intimidating manner. The whole experience was grotesquely disturbing.
So what exactly led to such a conflict? The hearing itself was merely a pre-trial hearing in a foreclosure case. There were two attorneys from the bank present from two separate law firms. Those attorneys and I had worked out a resolution and were going to ask the judge for a continuance of the trial the court had set.
The problem is, when we walked into that judge’s chambers he began with,
“Well, since this is only a simple foreclosure case we won’t need much time to try this.”
To which I replied,
“Well, judge you see this case is not just a “simple” foreclosure case and I will be defending it properly.”
When I expressed that I was going to be doing my job properly, this really set the judge off and at that point in time things really began to get confrontational. As the judge really began to lay into me, one of the opposing attorneys sought to calm things down a bit and interject a bit just to divert the conflict. What he said was,
“You see judge, Mr. Weidner tried this very case with me last year and…(here comes the good part)….it took us four hours…”
The moment the attorney said it took four hours to try a foreclosure case, the judge became even more aggressive and hostile to me…literally coming up out of his chair, huffing and grinding his jaw directly at me a comment to the effect of, how in the world was this guy allowed to waste four hours of court time trying a “simple” foreclosure case? (All the while coming out of his chair and literally looking like he would physically attack me.) But here’s the very best part….you see, my helpful opposing counsel, in response to the judge’s comment about “wasting” court time replied..
“Your honor, Mr. Weidner was very thorough and in fact he won the case…that’s why we’re here trying this case again….”
At that point in time, the judge had enough. He barked out in response in my direction,
“I’m gonna call my bailiff…you’re about to be arrested!”
I was then completely stunned into silence. I was literally afraid that if I said one more word he was going to attack me or have his bailiff throw me into jail. A truly mind blowing experience and so disappointing for me as an attorney. Immediately after the hearing, I put all these facts into an affidavit and filed my Motion to Disqualify the judge who issued his Order of Recusal. Such an Order should be very simple, merely granting the relief, but this Order went one step further and included the words,
“Attorney Weidner can best be described as arrogant, ignorant and insulting to the court.”
Those words, even if true are simply not appropriate in such an Order. At best they represent the opinion of the judge and are necessarily clouded by the nature of the proceedings. But taking each word individually they, “arrogant”, “ignorant”, “insulting”, each are not relevant to the matter before the court…strung together they confirm the only legally operative issue before the court…..the proposition that a litigant has a reasonable basis to believe the court is not neutral in its consideration of the litigants that appear before it.
As the travesty of the judicial system known as foreclosure funding winds down, this experience will forever be seared into my brain as the perfect expression of the system gone wrong.