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What If You Don’t Agree With The Judge?

It's okay to disagree with the judge, as long as you do it tactfully.

Whether you disagree with a judge about a single minor matter in a court case, or you disagree with the ruling in a court case, contradicting a judge can be extremely intimidating. After all, judges are the deciders in court cases where a jury isn’t involved. And even when your fate is in the jury’s hands, a judge can still shape their impression of you and the merit of your case.

But, the purpose of a court hearing is to have your side heard. Sometimes doing this requires being brave and contradicting a judge. Here are a few tips on what to keep in mind when it’s your word against the judge’s.

Agreeing with a judge’s statement in order to keep the peace can seriously damage your case.

Occasionally, judges will attempt to summarize and clarify their understanding of a point that you or your attorney has made. While judges are typically very insightful and excellent at their jobs, they sometimes make mistakes. If you believe that there is an error in the judge’s understanding, it’s important that you point it out.

Your case will be a matter of public record. If you agree with a judge’s viewpoint in one instance, and then say something to the contrary—in your current case, or a future case that relates to the current case—that contradiction will probably be used against you. There are times when ‘going along to get along’ makes sense. But rarely will such a move do you any favors in a courtroom.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should argue with the judge. But it’s very possible to maintain civility and respect while voicing your disagreement. Also, be careful to choose your battles. Put your foot down where necessary, but don’t be combative. Let the little things slide, and focus on the larger picture.

If you’re confused about something the judge says, ask questions.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous section. As we mentioned, once you’ve agreed to a judge’s statement, you’re going to have a rough time trying to retract that statement later on. If a judge asks you a question and you are uncertain as to what they mean, stop for a moment and take a breath before continuing.

You have the right to make sure that you have an accurate understanding of what a judge means when they ask something. While it can feel uncomfortable to stop the flow of things in order to double-check your understanding, you have to remember that this is your time in court. If you’re uncertain about something the judge has said, feel free to ask for clarification, or request permission to speak to your attorney for a moment.

Just as you should never sign a contract unless you’ve read all of it and understand it, you should never respond to a judge’s question or statement unless you understand what they are asking.

Embarrassment is not grounds for lying.

It’s very intimidating to speak to a judge. And many people respond to pressure by taking the path of least resistance. The result of this is that sometimes, people will lie to a judge, much in the same way that teenagers lie to their parents when asked if they’ve cleaned their rooms. But the consequences of lying to a judge are much more severe, and can have dire consequences.

If a judge asks you a question that makes you realize that you’ve made an oversight—something minor like forgetting to file a piece of paperwork, or a previous action that could hurt your case—stop and ask for permission to speak to your attorney. The impulse to hedge or lie can be strong and the words may be leaving your mouth before you even realize it.

Chances are, your attorney is going to tell you to suck it up and tell the truth. In some cases, your attorney may advise you that the best course is to choose not to respond. But whatever you do, DO NOT LIE. Judges are experts at detecting lies, and once you’ve been caught lying in court, your odds of winning in court will never recover.

What to do if you lose your case and don’t agree with the judge’s ruling.

You may do everything in right in court—dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’—and still lose your case. If you believe that the ruling is in error, the first thing that you should do is consult with your attorney.

There are generally two ways to respond to a court ruling you think is wrong:

File a motion for a new trial: It is appropriate to file a motion for a new trial if

  • The evidence and applicable laws clearly favored one party, but the ruling went in the favor of the other;
  • The verdict is excessive or inadequate. In civil trials, this would be the case if the damages awarded were much higher or much lower than typical in such court cases;
  • New evidence comes to light which, if it had been introduced during the original trial, would have likely resulted in a different ruling.

It’s very rare for new trials to be granted, so this route only makes sense if it is advised by a trustworthy attorney that doesn’t have a personal stake in the case. In may be wise to pay a flat, one-time fee to an attorney who is willing to consult on the case and offer a second opinion.

File an appeal: Appeals are filed with there is evidence that the court was erroneous in its understanding of the facts, or its understanding of the law. For an appeal to have any chance, there needs to be a solid argument that the former, the latter, or both affected the outcome of the case.

It should be noted that neither of these responses are appropriate when you simply disagree with the ruling. In any court case, chances are that there will be someone who doesn’t like the outcome. And in the end, you may simply have to live with the court’s ruling.

It must be remembered that courts do not exist in a vacuum, making decisions based upon a judge’s or jury’s whim. Courts do not make laws; courts apply laws. They use the law to make decisions.

There have been many instances in which judges have disagreed with their own rulings, but have no choice but to decide in a certain way because of what the law says. So keep in mind that when you disagree with a court’s ruling, it may well be that the judge had no other choice, and that it is the law that you disagree with. And in that case, unfortunately, there’s little you can do but accept the situation, and move on.