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“Spirited” doesn’t come close to describing the panel of women state judges and trial attorneys who came together last week for a Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys forum on trial issues. “Aren’t we looking for the truth?” asked Boston attorney Joan A. Lukey, of Hale & Dorr. “NO!” yelled the judges. And that was only a sample of how the nearly two-hour session went, as judges — Superior Court Chief Justice Suzanne DelVecchio, her Superior Court colleagues Carol S. Ball and Linda E. Giles, and Supreme Court Justice Judith A. Cowin — joined Lukey, Ann Marie Maguire of the Taunton firm Keches & Mallen, and Alice E. Richmond, of Richmond, Pauly & Ault in Boston for a lively discourse on truth, career and life in the courts for up-and-coming women trial attorneys. TELLING LIKE IT IS To the MATA audience’s delight, DelVecchio jumped in early with some direct career counseling. “Network, network and network some more … keep in touch with everyone you ever met in your life. You’ll learn how to do the cases if you get a good job,” she said. “Lawyers are pretty good resources — ask them questions and you’ll get a lot of answers.” In trial work, the judges warned attorneys to be succinct and prepared in their presentations. “You sit there as you listen to attorneys, thinking, ‘OK, I get it already,’” said Ball, rolling her eyes. “The bottom line is you have to hone your skills to get the information out the first time, because I’m telling you, you’re losing the jury.” The attorneys talked of analyzing their cases, not just for obvious facts, but for getting what Lukey called “the big picture” to see how all the pieces fit. “You can gain a lot of wisdom from your clients,” added Richmond. “Listen to what they want and how they think they can get it. You will be a better lawyer by being a better listener.” JUROR ISSUES The session, sponsored by MATA’s Women’s Caucus, also delved into innovative jury techniques — recently the focus of a major report and judges conference of the state courts — but drew mixed, and sometimes irreverent, reviews from the panel. “Where does all this [jury reform] come from?” asked Ball. “From Maricopa County, Arizona,” shot back DelVecchio, about an Arizona jurisdiction known for trial experimentation. “It’s all from Maricopa County, Arizona. They have sand, they have cacti, they have snakes, and they have a bunch of judges who are bored.” More seriously, the judges and attorneys in the audience traded views on the benefits of allowing jurors to take notes and ask questions of trial witnesses, and of broadening the voir dire system to probe juror biases. “The asking of questions by jurors shouldn’t be necessary if the lawyers are doing their jobs right,” said SJC Justice Cowin. “If you want to woo me with voir dire questions, don’t give me 10 pages of them,” said Giles. “Pick your battles. Be specific.” But one audience member pointed out the disadvantage to trial attorneys when they can’t ask questions themselves, and get to the heart of a juror’s biases. “I urge you to please use questions [for voir dire] from lawyers, and to demand that lawyers write good questions,” said one audience member. “Not being able to ask these questions is a huge problem for trial attorneys.” Post-trial meetings between judges, jurors and attorneys also was scrutinized, with most panelists agreeing they are helpful to all parties as long as the case the jurors have just heard isn’t discussed. Attorney Ann Marie Maguire recalled having two verdicts come back in her clients’ favor, and jurors telling her later they didn’t think she was treated courteously by the judges involved. Ironically, Maguire said, “I thought I was treated all right.”

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