This link from one of my favorite legal blogs, The Volokh Conspiracy, bothers me:
This "court attorney referee" would probably benefit from an immediate CLE course on the rules of evidence, while concentrating on relevance and materiality. Of course, the mother shouldn't have been forced to testify about attending concerts long ago and other extraneous events. If I was her attorney, I would have caused a scene with my objections.
What really troubles me is that lawyers may be used to the courtroom, but our clients are never comfortable there. I have represented important business people, as well as witnesses that had never set foot in a courtroom, and trust me, they were all nervous about testifying. While I expect opposing counsel to ask my client tough and complicated questions, I also expect the judge (or referee) to do his or her job well and make sure that justice, fairness and the rule of law are always enforced. That clearly did not happen in the Queens County Family Court on the days this mother testified, and that is just not acceptable. I ran for Supreme Court Justice a few years ago (lost a close one) with the intention to treat everyone in my courtroom with respect, fairness and professionalism, while also being tough in enforcing the law. Our court system must work diligently to ensure that litigants believe in a positive way that they had their "day in court." I certainly would have protected this witness from such objectionable questions. Thankfully, the appellate court granted this mother some justice.
By the way, I attended concerts back in my high school and college days (including the Grateful Dead), and don't dare ask me about them on cross-examination. But seriously, that 18-year-old guy attending concerts was a very different person than the one writing this blog post.
James Maisano, Esq.