The reality in litigation is: "The law is whatever the judge says it is." The chances of getting an unfavorable decision reversed by the Court of Appeal are slim. According to the , the California Court of Appeal affirmed 88% of decisions made by trial judges between 2005 and 2006. Therefore, it is important to know your judge.
You can find information about judges on the Internet, by word of mouth, from bar associations such as the , and in published by the Daily Journal. You can also learn valuable information about your judge by researching his decisions which have been appealed.
If you have never appeared before the judge assigned to your case, you should make a point of observing him and talking to attorneys who have appeared before him. What is the judge’s background? What is his political bent? What is his temperament? How does he manage his calendar? Does he push cases to settle or trial? What is his attitude towards discovery disputes, sanctions, and motions for summary judgment?
You may decide for obvious reasons that you do not want a judge who worked as a defense lawyer and insurance adjuster to preside over your client’s bad faith case. You have only ten days to disqualify the judge if he is not right for your case. Of course, the risk in disqualifying the judge is that you could end up with a worse judge for your case. However, on the rare occasions when we have disqualified judges, we always have been fortunate to receive a better judge for our case than the one we disqualified. If you disqualify your judge and end up drawing a worse one, there is always the possibility that your adversary will use her peremptory challenge to disqualify the newly assigned judge. For these reasons, the risk of receiving a worse judge should not deter you from disqualifying a judge that is wrong for your case.