Friday, April 5, 2013

How are Judges Like Umpires?

With spring training recently concluded -- are you ready for another analogy, sports fans?

Ohio’s Major League Baseball teams opened their seasons this week.  I have often thought that judges, especially those on the trial courts, are very like umpires who call the balls and strikes in ballparks across the nation.

Just like the umpire, the judge is a decider.  Trial judges decide all the time.  When parties are competing in court, one or the other may make a motion.  The judge decides whether to grant or overrule the motion.  At trial, a party can object to evidence.  The judge decides whether to admit or exclude it.  If a jury trial was waived, the judge may have to decide if a defendant is guilty or not guilty. There are many line calls for judges.

Even on the Supreme Court, we make calls as appellate judges.  For parties that ask us to review a case, we decide if it is the type of case that we should take in for review.  We decide if it has public or great general interest.  And after briefs and oral argument, we vote whether to affirm or reverse the earlier court’s judgment.

And just like an umpire, the judge must operate by the rule book.  Sometimes a decision has to be made quickly, like most of those made on the ball diamond.  And like the best umpires, the best judges try to be fair and impartial making their important decisions every day.

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