Similar to knowing your Judge, you must know your enemy if you want to maximize your chances of success. And, because almost every lawsuit is between former friends or business associates, (landlords, employers, or family), you must focus on the enemy’s tendencies.
Is your enemy loud and bombastic? Are they charming and attractive? Are they organized, or do they fly by the seat of their pants with emotional abandon?
Think about this. If your intel on the Judge revealed a careful listener whose decisions favor methodical, organized and soft spoken arguments, plan to approach your case in that fashion. Is your opponent a loud mouth who is likely to irritate the judge? If so, don’t be afraid to trigger an outburst. Very few Judge’s appreciate impolite or uncivil conduct. Is your opponent a 75 year old landlord, or a petite college student? Be careful. You might be a 6’-4” former football player. If so, you may need to present your case in a softer and gentler voice. You wouldn’t want the Judge to look at you as a bully. And, if you are the older woman fighting the giant man, be prepared to look him in the eye with a firm but respectful message.
Another thing, some Judges ask all of the questions and don’t give the litigants an opportunity to cross examine each other. Go with the flow. However, if the Judge allows you to ask questions, something that you already know from your Intel, come prepared with an outline of simple questions and ask them with as much precision as possible. For example, “Ms. Ogre, isn’t it true that I paid my rent on time for the first 7 months?” Here, be prepared with your record and show it to her. Then ask again, “Ms. Ogre, here are my cancelled checks. Do you deny cashing them on the dates shown? Ms. Ogre, isn’t it true that I only stopped paying my rent when my bathroom ceiling crashed in?” Be prepared to show her the picture of the ceiling and then ask “Ms. Ogre, do you deny that this picture accurately shows the condition of my bathroom ceiling on April 1st, the day I stopped paying rent?”
Again, game plan and execution. Come prepared. Ask your questions directly. Look your enemy directly in the eyes. No hostility. No fear. Just treat them with respect, even if you don’t respect them. Civility with your opponent in the 45-A Berkley District Court is no different than Detroit’s 36th District Court. It usually earns you credibility.