An hour with Judge Cicone

Many lawyers in Baltimore County believe retired Judge Frank E. Cicone can see the future. In a half-century at Baltimore County Circuit Court — 18 handling settlement conferences and 35 on the bench — he’s seen and heard it all, so his opinion on the potential outcome of a trial is highly valued.

I learned this Tuesday morning, having arrived unannounced at the courthouse settlement office to find out if I could sit in on a conference. I was surprised when Cicone invited me into the room and we chatted for a minute before the conference began. As long as the lawyers don’t mind you here, he said, I’m fine with it. (They did not.)

The case ended up being about a woman who injured herself three years ago when she fell in a county shopping center. Lawyers on both sides outlined the basic facts and previewed their arguments.

Cicone then talked with each side separately, estimating a dollar figure he felt was a fair compromise, giving an opinion on how the jury might rule and answering questions. But he also took the time to praise both lawyers, tell stories and chat with a young defense lawyer about how he liked his job. The whole hour was one-half business, one-quarter casual conversation and one-quarter story time.

Neither side appeared ready to settle at the conference’s conclusion, but everyone involved clearly enjoyed their time with Cicone and intended to take his recommendations into consideration.

I’ve seen lawyers deferential to judges, but not like this. “Stay here and learn,” one of the defense lawyers said to me as he left.

Anyone else have a Judge Cicone story?

DANNY JACOBS, Legal Affairs Writer

Laugh tracking at Scotus

Oral arguments are over, the transcripts have been scoured and our sister blog, DC Dicta, has figuratively crowned the Supreme Court’s Funniest Justice of the October 2007 Term:

No drumroll needed here: As predicted, the winner by a long, long shot is the ever-amusing Justice Antonin Scalia.

Scalia had the court reporters hitting their (Laughter) keys 74 times this term — 18 in the final two weeks of argument alone, DC Dicta notes. And contrary to what you might have seen on TV, Justice Clarence Thomas managed to go for a second straight year without making a single comment during oral arguments.

The tally:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 74
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 23
Justice Stephen Breyer: 21
Justice David Souter: 17
Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9
Justice John Paul Stevens: 7
Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.: 4
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 4
Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law