U.S. Senior Judge shares his wisdom

Good lawyers know which cases to take to Court and which ones to settle. 

So said the United States Court of Appeals Senior Judge and Chief Judge Emeritus, John Clifford Wallace. He made the point during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

The 89-year-old was part of the conference of Pacific judges where he spoke on money laundering and the importance of an independent judiciary last week.  

“You can’t settle them (cases) all; you have to trial some,” Judge Wallace said. 

“Good lawyers will really have to evaluate cases, which mean you not only have to know what you know about your clients you have to know their case too, and by doing that you know how much jeopardy your client has and that gives you an idea of its value.  So if you can arrive at a settlement, you’re much better off especially if your client may get a severe penalty if you lose.”

Judge Wallace said a good trial lawyer knows how to settle and knows how to be prepared. 

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“One of the things you learn about being a good trial lawyer, it isn’t how many you take to Court; it is how many you get a good result from your client without going to Court. 

“I was a good mediator, and I could get results from my clients, it was satisfactory for them and we didn’t have to go to Court.”

He also noted the importance of training lawyers and judges in their line of work. 

“What judges and lawyers need to have is training. Because the islands are so separated in a way, you can’t just go through the streets and get into the meeting with some lawyers in a bar association. 

“So what we have to do is focus on a different way in doing the training, and what we’ve tried to do during the time period in working out here in the Pacific Islands is to be able to get groups together.”

Judge Wallace said lawyers and judges can’t be satisfied with their work, they have to keep improving. 

“The key is how you do it in a smaller jurisdiction, and we’ve been able to develop these conferences and other joint meetings to be able to bring that to the Pacific, and we will do more. 

“It is the responsibility of the judges and lawyers to make this work for the people. It isn’t just there to make money, it’s there to make democracy work, it’s there to give people freedom, it’s there so that inappropriate actions by political leaders will be taken to task, and we have a balance. So it is an ongoing process.”

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