HUMOR IN THE COURT by Bob Smith 
Saturday, September 5, 2015, 01:30 PM
Posted by Administrator
I am not funny. I may try to be, but, I know the truth. I understand that the basis of humor is to do/say/present the unexpected happy/odd/coincidental thing with the expectation that the target of the humor will be surprised in a pleasant way.

For instance, if a large group of people is standing around complementing someone on their tie and I walk up to him and say: "Stan, you look great....except for the tie." AND, I say it with a big smile on my face so that people will know that I am looking for a laugh and that I am not trying to be an ass...my line MAY be funny. And, if I want to be funny and to make people laugh, I have to take the chance that I will NOT be funny...or, worse, that I will say something stupid. Sometimes, saying something I hope will work, I land up looking like an ass. Oh, well. People who have committed to trying to be funny have all accepted this downside.

A great man (George Barrs) once told me "They'll never hurt your client if they're laughing." The "they" was a reference to judges. By "hurt", George meant go hard on them/give them the maximum time/sent them to jail and throw away the key. So, it was sometimes.... and not in the middle of a trial with a jury sitting there or in front of "victims"....good to get the courtroom to laugh.

Many (if not most) judges I have met would have liked to have made it as stand-up comics. The courtroom they sit in is THEIR courtroom and, within the bounds of not joking so much that it hurts their re-election chances, their bench is their stage for their show and the gallery of not-incarcerated criminal defendants (as well as prisoners sitting in chains), or lawyers waiting for their cases to be heard, or small claims plaintiff & defendants probably is looking for a reason to laugh. And, while it is bad form to laugh in court in general, if it's the Judge's joke, laughing is somewhere between encouraged and required.

An important rule for lawyers to remember is that it is the Judge's courtroom and, while their getting a laugh can be appropriate......even helpful to their client's cause....the Judge gets to tell the final joke.

And, the lawyers are required to laugh.

And, then everyone moves on.

Over years of practicing locally, it is likely that some Judges have observed or have come to believe, by way of their reputation, that some particular lawyers are funny....or try, sometimes, to get a laugh. Though I am not one of these lawyers (because I am not funny), I believe these lawyers have an advantage in that when they are dead-freak'in-serious (in the sense of not trying at all to be in any way funny) it likely makes the Judge think to him/herself: "Mr. Rabinowitz is not being his usually humorous self today...I wonder if he is not feeling well or if he is pissed off and, if he is pissed off, there must be a message in it. And, if there is a message, what could the message be?"

The message is, more or less, this: MY CLIENT IS BEING SCREWED BY THE OTHER SIDE AND THERE IS NOTHING IN THE LEAST BIT FUNNY ABOUT IT. DON'T YOU LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT OR, AMONG OTHER BAD THINGS, YOU WILL BE CRUSHING OUT ANY HOPE THAT THERE WILL BE ANY HUMOR IN MY LIFE, FOREVER.

And, I believe that send a message this way is a VERY effective form of communication, though I cannot do this as I am not funny.

Note: Mr. Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who now resides in Northern Wyoming, near the Canadian border. He is back writing for us after an extended absence. He writes this entry at the Tim Horton's Donuts located in the Medicine Hat Mall in nearby Medicine Hat, Alberta...(The answer to the obvious question? Salted Caramel Timbits and coffee).

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