Thursday, January 10, 2013

Farewell to two respected Cook County jurists

Judge Green
I was saddened to learn from Sneed's Chicago Sun-Times column this morning of the passing of former Chancery Division Presiding Judge Albert Green.

At arguments on fully-briefed, contested motions, Judge Green typically had his opinion prepared -- in longhand -- before the hearing began. This could be disheartening to some; after all, a lawyer's argument, however eloquent, was unlikely to prompt the judge to rewrite his opinion. Still, he gave parties every opportunity to make their record. When the lawyers were done, Judge Green would read what he'd written. From his longhand notes.

Younger lawyers may read this and scoff at the low-tech quality of a pen-and-paper opinion (which was not part of the court file, but only read into the official, court-reported record). But I've come to appreciate how wonderful it was to know, with certainty, that the judge had decided the matter himself.

I'm certain there was staff input in Judge Green's decisions. Chancery judges, then and now, have bright and capable clerks. Some are, or will be, scholars in their own right. But in crafting that final handwritten opinion, whatever the contribution of the staff, the lawyers would know that Judge Green had considered and resolved the dispute.

That reassurance is not always available in cases these days, when so many matters are taken under advisement and printed opinions issued. Likewise, in the Appellate Court, most cases are decided now on the briefs, without oral argument, without the opportunity for counsel, the parties, and the public to see for themselves how engaged the justices are in the decisions that will be issued in their names. Some jurists have distinctive 'voices' and most opinions, in the Circuit Court or the Appellate Court, demonstrate, by the quality of their text, the extent of judicial input in the final product.

But with Judge Green, we knew -- win or lose -- that it was Judge Green who had made the ruling.

Thank you, Judge Green.

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Judge Crandell
The January 8 issue of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required) brought word of the passing, in December, of former Associate Judge Rosaland M. Crandell.

Judge Crandell sat in the Third Municipal District and I recall in particular one time when I was before her. This was many years ago, at the old courthouse near the corner of Touhy and Milwaukee.

It was a first party insurance case; I don't remember the names of the parties or the precise nature of the dispute. But I remember my client, the insurance company, was upset about producing something or other in discovery and it was my job to explain to Judge Crandell exactly why we weren't going to do it.

Judge Crandell heard me out, patiently, and set the matter for a new date a few weeks hence. "Counsel," she said -- and this part I remember exactly -- "bring a toothbrush to the next hearing."

"A toothbrush?" I asked.

"Yes," she said -- but (and this is why I remember it so vividly) she was so nice when she said this.

I reported this result to my superiors. The dispute was resolved. I don't know whether my client's objections were well-founded or not, but I do remember I didn't have to bring a toothbrush to court. And, at the next hearing, when I so informed Judge Crandell, she said she was glad. And she certainly seemed to be.

Judge Crandell showed how a judge can be both demanding and remain entirely civil.

Thank you, Judge Crandell.

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