Bench Article


The litigation attorneys at Parker & Wenner are in constant contact with our Minnesota Judges both at the State and Federal level. The following general observations are intended to help the lay person understand the individual judge who is or will be making crucial legal and factual determinations on their particular matter.

In general, judges have no special expertise in the law. While there are some specialized courts (e.g. bankruptcy court, family court, probate court, and juvenile court), the majority of judges work in courts that have the power to resolve any type of dispute people might have. Consequently, most judges are asked to resolve a wide variety of legal issues every day. Even the most experienced and knowledgeable judges find themselves confronted with issues they have not addressed before.

Unlike most judges, most attorneys specialize in a few areas of the law. Consequently, attorneys have the ability to become acquainted with the fine details in a given area of the law. Thus, attorneys are often in the position to instruct the judge about important legal aspects of a dispute. In addition, as officers of the court, attorneys have an ethical duty not to mislead the court about the law. Because of all this, judges are able to trust that attorneys will provide them with valuable insights into the law.

In addition to their limited expertise in the law, judges are extremely limited in their knowledge of the facts surrounding a particular dispute. Unless a case proceeds to trial (and less than 20% of cases actually do proceed to trial), a judge is rarely given a full picture of the dispute. Furthermore, the average judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota for example, has over 120 active cases at any given time. As a result, the time that a judge can devote to a particular case is quite limited.

In contrast, attorneys acquire intimate knowledge of their client’s dispute. They can devote the necessary time to understand their clients’ perspective. Using their knowledge of the law, they can then highlight for the judge those facts that are important from a legal standpoint. At the same time, they can filter out facts that are not legally relevant.

When appearing in court, there is no requirement that an individual be represented by an attorney. However, more often than not, having an attorney is a good idea. Not only can they protect your rights, they can help the judges understand your side of the story. The judges I have met in the court system take their work seriously. They strive to make correct decisions, because they know that making a bad decision can have devastating consequences for the people involved. In exercising their duties, they strive to be fair to all parties. In striving to be fair, judges are often reluctant to make a decision unless asked to do so by a party. Instead, they rely on parties to present their respective positions in the best possible light and request the relief that the parties deem most appropriate. An attorney can help them do that.

For questions pertaining to any litigation related issues please call Boris Parker at (612) 355-2201 for a free telephone consultation.