Judge takes transparency to a new level (it’s not Martin Feldman)

“This internet is truly amazing…it’s a great medium to disseminate information.”

Judge Larry Primeaux, 12th Chancery Court District of Mississippi

As a general rule, “you have to be the news to make the news” applies to the decisions a judge makes in a significant case.  As Martin Feldman now knows, it’s even bigger news when the decision is subject to question and the Judge releases financial report, raising more questions as Rebecca Mowbray reported.

Mississippi Chancery Judge Larry Primeaux is an exception to the general rule.  Judge Primeaux has a blog.  He not only makes the news, he reports it!

You can read about the court’s procedures and guidelines here, and pick up useful information about recent cases and other developments that impact practice in our court.  You’ll find some food for thought, practice pointers,humor and some pure horse sense.

If you could see all the corrections the various court clerks enter on Pacer, you’d understand why a judge would want to make “the court’s procedures and guidelines” more user friendly – and, if you read any post on Judge Primeaux’s blog, you’ll also know that Mississippi has yet another another gifted writer!

Last week in Clarke County I took the bench one day in a dark suit and dispatched the day’s business in that attire because my robe was in chambers with a Circuit Judge whom I did not wish to bother.  The Chancery Clerk pointed out later that the younger lawyers were abuzz about it.  They had never seen such a thing.  Imagine — a judge adjudicating sans black robe.

Down through the decades it was a hallmark of our courts that the Chancery Judge did not wear a robe.  The Chancellor presided in his (yes, in those days there were few female Chancery Judges) dark suit, dispensing equity like an ancient Titan loosing thunderbolts.

Long after Circuit Judges donned the robe, Chancellors continued unrobed.  It was not until the late 80′s, as far as I recall, that Chancellors donned robes in our part of the state, and then not every Chancellor did.  Judge John Clark Love in District Six never wore a robe until the day he retired in 2005.  Neither did his counterpart, Judge Ed Prisock.

The philosophy behind the robe is that it instantly lends authority and recognition of office to the wearer, but Chancellors in those pre-robe days didn’t really need a cloak to lend them weight Authority emanated from them like deadly radiation from a chunk of uranium.  For those of us who practiced before some of the really great old lions of the Chancery bench, there was no question of authority.  A wilting glance or stabbing remark could inflict a wound in one’s case that would bleed to a fateful conclusion.  Heaven help the unprepared lawyer.

Billy Neville of Meridian was the commander of his court room.  He sat on the bench, pipe jutting McArthur-like out of his face, whittling on a cedar plug until he carved an eye-shaped piece — rounded in the middle and sharp on each end — whence he would start another.  A lying witness never escaped his ire.  “Suh!” he would thunder, “Do you expect me to believe that?”  You knew that was coming because only a few questions before he had begin running his hand across his forehead and then over his scalp as first his cheeks and then his temples and then his forehead changed hues from peach to crimson to scarlet.  “Mr. Bailiff, suh!  Take this man upstairs!”

Judge Neville was also a master at communicating subtly to the attorney the futility of one’s case.  “Yes, suh, I will sustain the objection because this has nothing to do with the case, and even if it did there is no law in Mississippi that would permit me to do what the Complainant has prayed for.  Now you may proceed, suh.”  Okay, how do you frame the next question when the judge has just let all the air out of your case?

Judge Primeaux seemed genuinely surprised when the number of readers all but doubled the first two days his blog was up:

It surprised me to see that on the first day I publicized this blog, I had 144 views, and the next day 283!  And that was even before I had let more than a couple of lawyers know it existed.

The answer is that when I commented on Philip Thomas’ amusing article on dressing for court…other bloggers picked it up and spread the word.

While Thomas’s article was amusing,  Judge Primeaux’s post on the article was a LMAO read:

If it is true that “Clothes make the [man/woman],” I can say emphatically that in Chancery Court, clothes do not make the lawyer.  In my many years of practicing and judging in mostly rural counties in Mississippi I have seen many a lawyer in “high waters” and burlap suits.  I have worn them myself.  I have seen lawyers in poplin suits, boiled white shirts with short sleeves, clip-on ties and galluses who were wizards in the court room.  I have seen rumpled country lawyers in laughably poorly fitting suits send nattily dressed lawyers back to their sleek offices in the city rubbing equitable knots on their sore heads.  I once tried a case in a country court room against a lawyer who had yet to remove the sewn-on tag from the sleeve of his sport coat, and I was glad to escape that trial with a squeaky victory.

Unfortunately, one reason I found Primeaux’s post so amusing is that I once (unknowingly) went to an extremely important meeting with a strip of blue plastic inside my panty hose positioned as if it were a seam in my stocking.  Such is but one example of the trials and tribulations of mothers with cheerleading daughters who toss their pom poms around in the house!

Please take time to check out the Judge’s blog and join SLABBED in hoping the practice catches on!

3 thoughts on “Judge takes transparency to a new level (it’s not Martin Feldman)”

  1. Becky gets a C+ because her new source still don’t know jackshit about recusal. Better than an F though. My experience is that Mississippi Chancery court judges could teach Martin Feldman a thing or two about the topic.


  2. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOwweeeeeeeeeeeee Glad to see there are still some open , honest and fellow ” common man ” judges still breathing and adjudicating in a fair and unbiased way. Maybe some of the federal “Kings” will read this post come down from their lofty thrones and try to simulate Judge Primeaux’s humility. I’m not holding my breath though.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOwweeeeeeeeeeeeee

  3. Why put robes on judges anyway? It only give them more of a God complex than they already have. Especially in small town Mississippi.

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