Watching the daily television feed of the Casey Anthony trial, lots of the good work that Judge Belvin Perry is doing gets lost, as the TV channels take the opportunity for throwing in commercials the minute that the presentation of evidence is halted.
That's too bad, because lots can be learned from watching Judge Perry in action.
What makes me think that Judge Belvin Perry is really good at what he does? Lots of things, but these come to mind immediately:
1. He understands the lawyers' jobs. Granted, my background is in huge, voluminous civil cases that take weeks if not months to try. One example: in these cases, there's lots and lots and lots of paper, and amidst all that pressure of trial, there's the need to keep track of all that stuff. Judge Perry offers the lawyers a secure place to keep their files there in the courtroom - not all judges do that; I have horrific memories of waiting for the firm courier and his cart so we could move all that stuff back to the office every evening, and into the courtroom every morning. Pack up the bankers' boxes, unpack the bankers' boxes. How nice to have the Judge give that secure space, it's a little thing but it's a big deal, too.
2. He lets the jury know that they are the Important Ones here - along with everyone else in the courtroom. I respect the American system of justice primarily because in the search for truth, that jury really does tend to sniff it out. True, it's not 100% of the time, but it's amazing to watch those 12 individuals take their spots in the jury box and meld into a cohesive whole. The jury in a trial does become an entity: the factfinder. It's great to see the trial judge here give the jury the respect and courtesy that it deserves. Judge Perry will ask them to make the call on staying late (he did this yesterday); Judge Perry will blast the lawyers on how the Jury wanted to work Memorial Day and their desire to keep moving is going to be respected.
3. He's approachable. Racehorse Haynes was one of my mentors when I was a baby lawyer, and one of the things he told me was that the masters of the profession knew who they were, and let you know that, too. They brought their own personalities into their work, they didn't conform - he told me to watch for the ones that didn't wear the blue suit, that didn't carry the Right Briefcase, you get the idea. Judge Perry doesn't demand respect from the bench, he assumes it will be given - you know he's been doing this for years, without checking his background. He could be intimidating or arrogant and we'd accept it. He's not, he listens to the lawyers and while he's routinely denying Jose Baez's requests for sidebars, Judge Perry is accommodating and ready to help everyone get their jobs done, as best he can.
I could go on and on about this judge. He's just wonderful. I really, really, really respect Judge Belvin Perry.