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Ever Met An Attorney Named “Judge”?

By: Tami Kamin Meyer

If the election was held today, California would earn 28 votes. Ohio, consistently viewed as an electorate bell weather, pales in comparison, with only 9. Since this writer lives in Columbus, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, it’s no surprise I feel elation that Michigan, referred to in Columbus as “The State Up North,” rings in with only three.

Be that as it may, these statistics are not related to the presidential election. Instead, they refer to the number of licensed lawyers in those states whose last name is “Judge.”

Could you imagine what it might be like to practice law when your last name is Judge? Taken even further, what must it be like to be a Judge named Judge? Progressive Law Practice reached out to a few Attorney Judges to see what it’s like to carry that moniker throughout a legal career.

Name: Joseph M. Judge 

Law Firm: Dawda Mann Mulcahy & Sadler, PLC 

Job Title: Partner 

Location: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 

Focus of Your Practice: Commercial real estate law

PLP: When did you know you wanted to become an attorney?

Judge: I should have known earlier than I actually did. As a kid… I never truly considered becoming an attorney–and I think I avoided the consideration a bit because of my last name–until taking a business law class in undergrad. After some discussion and encouragement from the teacher, I decided to take the LSAT and the rest is history.

PLP: Were you ever concerned about what it would be like to practice law with the last name of “Judge”?

Judge: Once I got into law school, I never really had a concern. I had worn the name for so long, and so it just became normal. It was a conversation starter for sure, but never a problem.

PLP: Are you the first attorney in your family?

Judge: I am the first and only attorney in my immediate family and the only attorney in my extended family named Judge.

PLP: What are the pros and cons of having the last name of Judge while practicing law?

Judge: Because it’s a unique name, it sometimes becomes part of the polite small talk that happens at the start of a transaction, so it can be a bit of an icebreaker. I haven’t experienced much of a downside except that direct mail marketers confuse me for being an actual judge, and so I often get mail addressed to “The Honorable Judge Joseph.” Personally, I’ve always loved the name. As a kid, my parents were well respected and the family name always meant something to me.

PLP: What’s the most unusual comment you’ve received about you being an attorney named Judge?

Judge: It may be easier to tell you the most usual comment (and I suspect every attorney you’ll interview for this piece will say the same thing). Almost everyone that first hears that you are an attorney named Judge will point out that if you ever become a judge, you’ll be “Judge Judge.” I’ve heard it a million times, but I’ve become good at sharing a smile and laughing a bit, pretending that it had never occurred to me until that moment.

 

Name: Marty M. Judge, Esq. 

Law Firm: Flaster/Greenberg P.C. 

Job Title: Shareholder and Chair, Real Estate and Environmental Department 

Where located: Cherry Hill, NJ and Philadelphia, PA 

Focus of Your Practice: Environmental law and litigation

PLP: When did you know you wanted to become an attorney?

Judge: Achieving my teenage years in the 1960s (I was born in 1952), I was always profoundly influenced by many social and political causes of that era. For example, I was heavily moved by the social injustices in the South, in inner cities nearly everywhere, and in economic policies like redlining that were hallmarks of racial inequality and that led to, and fueled, the civil rights movement.

As the Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular… (and) the growing realization that our Presidents and other national leaders were lying to us… and the social injustice of the draft… my sense of social consciousness was very nearly identical to the lyrics in the Marvin Gaye songs “What’s Going On” and “Mercy, Mercy Me.” While I did not always articulate how these things bothered and disturbed me, they really did upset me a lot and I began entertaining the idea that a career in law might give me the tools to become involved and actually make a difference.

However, by the time I reached college in 1970, I started backing away from the idea of a career in law, partly because of my last name–it really did seem odd to contemplate being called “Attorney Judge.”

PLP: When did you actually pursue law?

Judge: Toward the end of my college career, two profound things happened that caused me to shift back to the idea of being a lawyer. First, my dad had been involved in a serious car accident where a woman who literally was too blind to even be driving a car did not see him as a pedestrian on the street and ran over him. Unaware of what she had done, she sat in the car and continued to try to rev her engine to move her car, completely unaware that her tires were not contacting the ground because my dad was underneath. He was gravely injured, and had last rights administered several times when he was in the hospital, but he eventually pulled through.

Frankly, I despised the woman who had been so obviously negligent in nearly killing my dad, and I started to become interested in being a lawyer again.

The event that finally did send me to apply to law school was also related to my dad’s accident. As a roofer, my dad worked for a large, commercial roofing company, (but also took) spare jobs on his own to supplement his otherwise pretty meager wages. A number of weeks after his accident, he was contacted by a fairly wealthy businessman about the possibility of installing a new roof for that man on his house. My dad warned the man that he was coming off a very serious injury and could not work nearly as fast as he had been able before his accident, but the man told him he did not care. They sealed the deal via a handshake.

When it came time for my dad to receive his final payment, the man reneged and refused to pay my dad anything more than he had already paid – i.e., the initial one half payment. I remember going with my dad to the man’s house and arguing with him that he had a contractual obligation to pay my dad the full amount of the contract. The man literally just laughed at me, and then he told me that I was probably right but my dad would have to take him to court to get the remaining payment. The man also pointed out that the fees my dad would have to pay would probably be greater than the amount of any recovery.

I remember sitting in the man’s room, absolutely livid at his sheer arrogance, but feeling utterly powerless to do anything about the obvious injustice of the situation. I remember wanting nothing more than to have a law degree and the ability to take this bastard to court and make him pay to my dad the money that he owed him.

PLP: Are you the first attorney in your family? 

Judge: As far as I am aware, I am the first attorney in the family.

PLP: What are the pros and cons of having the last name of Judge while practicing law?

Judge: Other than my name being almost a constant source of small talk from people who I meet for the first time and who are told I am a lawyer, I have learned to deflect all of the jokes and teasing along the lines of being called Your Honor, etc. I also constantly get asked the question, “What will you do if you ever become a real judge?” My normally flippant response to that question is always something like the following: “It is my intent to go straight to the Supreme Court if I ever go on the bench. That way, at least I will be called Justice Judge.”

PLP: What’s the most unusual comment you’ve received about you being an attorney named Judge?

Judge: I was just starting a job as a first year associate at a small general practice law firm in New Jersey. I was sent to the county seat of Bergen County in northeast New Jersey, called Hackensack, to argue a discovery motion before the then chief judge, also called the Assignment Judge, of that county. I was very green, and very, very nervous. My nerves were made all the more raw by the fact that the motion that I was to argue took place in a packed court room, which was filled with probably 200 or so seasoned and experience other counsel who were waiting to have their matters called as well.

I was so nervous that I could barely talk. My words came out more like a whisper. When it came time for appearances to be placed on the record, I stated my name and who I represented. However, the judge cupped his ears (probably because I was speaking so quietly) and asked me to repeat my name. So I did. But he then cupped his ears again and asked me to repeat it one more time. And then again, and again. Each time, I tried speaking a bit more loudly than before but, based on the fact that the judge was developing a bit of a smirk and the 200 other counsel in the court room were abuzz with laughter, I began to realize that I was the victim of a practical joke.

Finally, the judge ended the joke with the following quip: “Oh, I get it. Your last name and my first name are the same. Is that correct?”

 

Name: Walter E. Judge, Jr. 

Law Firm: DRM PLLC 

Job Title: Partner 

Location: Burlington, VT 

Focus of Your Practice: Civil/commercial litigation

PLP: When did you know you wanted to become an attorney?

Judge: I originally resisted the idea of going to law school. Seemed like a staid and conservative career path, and a too-predictable one for a liberal arts grad. But I took a job as a litigation paralegal in the mid-1980s and liked it. I saw what the attorneys were doing and realized I could do what they were doing and make a lot more money. What I realize now is that being an attorney is a lot more stressful than being a paralegal!

PLP: Were you ever concerned about what it would be like to practice law with the last name of “Judge”?

Judge: Actually, I didn’t think about it much. But I can’t tell you how many people–including family members–came up to me when they found out I was a lawyer (especially early in my career) and said, “What if you become a judge, then you’d be Judge Judge! Isn’t that funny?!” I laughed politely and thought to myself, no, it’s not funny and you’re a simpleton.

PLP: Are you the first attorney in your family?

Judge: I believe I might be the first attorney in my extended family. The Judge clan are working-class immigrants from Ireland. When I was a young kid in the 1960’s, my name would often engender the comment, “Here Comes Da Judge.” Apparently this was a line from some TV show like “Laugh-In.”

PLP: What are the pros and cons of having the last name of Judge while practicing law?

Judge: In my daily law practice it doesn’t mean anything. But believe or not, I am a volunteer small claims judge in the Vermont court system on an occasional basis. So there are days when I literally am “Judge Judge.” I think it has freaked out some of the small claims litigants who have appeared before me.

PLP: What’s the most unusual comment you’ve received about you being an attorney named Judge?

Judge: Being introduced by the clerk, at the beginning of a small claims session: “Presiding today is the Honorable Judge Judge.”

 

Name: Judge Millie Judge 

Law firm: N/A 

Job Title: Snohomish County Superior Court Judge 

Location: In the City of Everett, located in Snohomish County, Washington. 

Focus of Your Work: As a judge, I hear both civil and criminal cases. On the criminal side of things, Superior Court hears felony and gross misdemeanor matters for adults and juveniles. On the civil side, we hear all family law matters (adoptions, dissolutions, and child dependency cases), general civil cases such as personal injury cases, business disputes, land use matters and the like. We also operate several therapeutic courts, including family, adult and juvenile drug courts.

PLP: When did you know you wanted to become an attorney?

Judge: When I was about seven years old. I liked to read a lot as a child and enjoyed mysteries that usually included attorneys. I thought it sounded like a fun job that helped people.

PLP: Were you ever concerned about what it would be like to practice law with the last name of “Judge”?

Judge: Yes. Judge is my married name. I was concerned that people would not take it seriously and that it would be a bit confusing for people. In the end, people seem to enjoy the irony. Jurors and parties hear it and usually laugh for a minute. It helps break the ice when they come to court.

PLP: Are you the first attorney in your family?

Judge: Yes, in my immediate family. No as to my in-laws. My sister (different last name) is now an attorney. My mother is a retired paralegal. My brother-in-law (Dan Judge) is also an attorney.

PLP: What are the pros and cons of having the last name of Judge while practicing law?

Judge: People certainly find it humorous. Everyone always asked if I would consider running for judge. Today when that happens, when I tell them I am one, they usually look at me in surprise and laugh.

PLP: What is it like to be a Judge whose last name is Judge?

Judge: It’s fine. But sometimes it can be confusing for people.

PLP: What’s the most unusual comment you’ve received about you being an attorney, then a Judge, named Judge?

Judge: People tend to ask me if I married my husband for his name. We usually laugh and I assure them that it was for love, not my career.

Read the original article on Progressive Law Practice.