July 2014 Bar Bulletin
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From the Desk of the Presiding Judge

Step up, Step in, Pro Tem

By Judge Susan Craighead


It's June, my son is out of school, and I am about to leave town for the first time since assuming this new role. I'm definitely ready for a break, just as Judge McDermott warned me I would be.

I am leaving the Court in the capable hands of Judge Palmer Robinson, the assistant presiding judge. We often say, "Judge Robinson can do anything," and that's true. She will step up to cover any calendar, any time. If a judge has to tend to a family emergency, Judge Robinson either handles their pending motions or finds a way to get them handled. When the Court has asked her to serve in leadership positions, she has always answered the call even though her first love is trying cases.

Judge Robinson is a trusted advocate for our staff, always reminding her know-it-all colleagues that, actually, the staff really do know a lot more than we do about many aspects of running a court. As presiding judge, I rely on Judge Robinson for candid advice. She is everything a good lawyer should be: wise, practical, kind and able to summon a keen sense of humor at the right moment. I am indeed leaving the Court is good hands while I am gone.

Most of the time when a judge goes on vacation we do not need to find someone to don her robe in her absence. Judges arrange for colleagues to handle their motions without oral argument and otherwise manage their calendars so they can be away - though scheduling a long vacation can be very challenging.

But when judicial officers who preside over calendars get sick or take vacation days, a replacement must be found. We try hard to find coverage within the Court, that's why you might encounter a judge on the ex parte calendar, for example. Usually, though, most judges are in the midst of trials and cannot cover calendars for more than a day or two at a time.

That's when we turn to judges pro tempore (or pro tems, as we call them). Pro tems are lawyers who, typically, have a lot of experience appearing at certain calendars or handling the types of cases heard on the calendar. Family law specialists pro tem on the family law motions calendar, for example. Pro tems must be members in good standing of the bar and they must have had five years of experience as a lawyer.

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