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Civil Litigation - Private
I want to give a fair, honest assessment of my dealings with Judge Wilson. A few months ago, I had a trial with Judge Wilson. I did not lose the case. However, Judge Wilson was beyond horrible as a judge. The worst judge that I have ever seen - - by far. I have been a litigator for over 20 years, so this is saying a lot. However, this review is not written merely to trash Judge Wilson, but, rather, to give you some actual guidance on how to deal with the man. When you first encounter Judge Wilson, he will strike you as an incredibly fair man. In pre-trial matters, Judge Wilson was extremely fair. He really listened to both sides and ruled on matters in a fair way. I had read so many negative reviews about him on the Robing Room before trial, that I was quite shocked to find him to be even-keeled and fair. He was very fair in ruling for me on a motion. I felt extremely comfortable heading into trial. I honestly felt that most of the people who had complained about him on the Robing Room were either just sore losers, or simply had a different personality from the judge. Motions in Limine. I filed about 40 in limines. Opposing counsel kept declaring that Judge Wilson was going to be angry about the number of in limines. Not at all. Judge Wilson never complained about the number of in limines. Moreover, he granted two-thirds of my in limines. I figured that Judge Wilson was going to be fabulous at trial. Voir Dire. Judge Wilson does not let lawyers ask questions during voir dire. Worse yet, he only asks jurors extremely generic questions (“Where do you work? Have you sat on a jury? Do you have any hobbies?”). Voir dire lasts about 45 minutes. It’s good if you hate voir dire, but bad because you literally know nothing about your jurors. Trial. The honeymoon with Judge Wilson abruptly ends when trial starts. It’s like he becomes another person when trial starts. Shortly after our trial got under way, it became readily apparent that Judge Wilson was adamantly opposed to my client. He was SUPER aggressive with my witnesses, criticizing them in open court on multiple occasions, even yelling at them to “ANSWER THE QUESTION!” His conduct was so shocking that I didn’t know what to make of it. I’m as type-A as they come, so I don’t take to being shocked easily. Judge Wilson’s conduct was that shocking. During trial he was INCREDIBLY rude to me. I grew up blue collar in a semi-ghetto neighborhood, so I’m not the kind of guy who gets his little feelings hurt. So, when I say that someone was rude, I mean beyond-the-pale rude. He was absolutely dismissive of multiple issues I raised even though the issues were highly relevant. I actually felt sad for the guy, as you could see he had a ton of anger built up in him. He openly displayed anger in court if you made the slightest misstep. To be frank, I felt like I was a lawyer in a courtroom in the Soviet Union. It was THAT bad. After the trial, one of the jurors commented that the judge treated the lawyers like they were children. The worst part was that Judge Wilson let every conceivable piece of evidence in for the Defendants, evidence that had no business being let in. I figured that this could not happen, since two-thirds of my in limines had been granted. Wrong. Worse, this trashy evidence was difficult to deal with during the trial. Conversely, when I had extremely relevant evidence to introduce, he refused to let it in. I would never say that a judge consciously tries to make one side win, but, subconsciously, he was leaning as hard as one could for the defense. Every other poster on the Robing Room who complained about Judge Wilson being results-oriented was dead-on the money. You need a plan if Judge Wilson is your judge. It does you no good if you just end up being another person that writes a critical review of Judge Wilson. Here are my tips for Judge Wilson: 1. Dismiss your case and file in State court. Make sure to remove any federal claims you have, so the that the case isn’t simply removed back to federal court (This idea was given to me by another lawyer who practices in federal court - - a great idea). 2. If you don’t want to dismiss, then try to get opposing counsel to stipulate to using a magistrate judge for trial. 3. If you are stuck with Judge Wilson, then you have to be ready with your law. Judge Wilson hated my guts during trial because I knew my law cold. If he had something to say, I was always ready with a counter argument. I was always civil and professional, even though he (quite literally) screamed at me a few times. When you get assaulted by Judge Wilson (which you will), don’t get caught up in the soap opera of wondering why he is so unjust and why he’s such a jerk. He’s been that way for 30 years. Your job is to get past that and to focus like a laser beam on your law and evidence. Don’t ever shy away from making an argument because you’re afraid that he’ll go ballistic. I would honestly practice ahead of time getting abused. Have a colleague act as the judge, and have him yell at you while you are making arguments. It is a sadistic form of batting practice, but it will actually help. You actually need to be ready to answer questions from someone who screams at you. I’M NOT KIDDING ABOUT THIS POINT. His lousy attitude is the one thing that will derail a person. You HAVE to be ready to deal with this. 4. One way to butter up Judge Wilson is to substantially shorten your case. He HATES long trials. The first time you see Judge Wilson, tell him that you think that this entire trial can be done in the half the time that you had originally planned. My trial should have last a week or more. With Judge Wilson, the entire trial lasted two days (which included voir dire). To be honest, it was better that the trial went quicker. As such, from the word go, preach to Judge Wilson that it is your goal to err on the side of brevity and to get this trial done in short order. That is one of the few things that makes him happy. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll still be a jerk to you, but at least you’ll get some brownie points. 5. My mistake at trial was that there were several issues that I shied away from addressing because Judge Wilson had been so out–of-control and screaming so much. As much as I don’t like to admit it, it was somewhat intimidating. Next time, I will not shrink back from anything. The same goes for you. Address every single hard issue that needs addressing even if you know that Judge Wilson will throw a conniption fit. After the trial, the jurors complimented me on how I behaved in the face of Judge Wilson’s lunacy. Stick to your guns and realize that you are fighting for your client, not to become Judge Wilson’s new best friend. Women, don’t take this wrong, but, I feel sorry for women attorneys who have to appear in front of this man. This man has been on the bench for over 30 years. There’s no use complaining about him to anybody because nothing will be done. You just have to take him as he is. I am not a bitter person and it’s not my desire to take cheap shots at Judge Wilson. Rather, I just want you to know what you are getting into. Be strong, be brave, and get ready for the battle of your life.
7/15/19, 2:13 AM
Hon. Stephen V. Wilson
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