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January 01, 2015

Reply Brief: State Courts Are Not Second Class

Hon. Michael B. Hyman

After calling the federal system “special,” Nolan writes, “I realize that favors, often granted in state courts, occur in those majestic [federal] courtrooms as well. . . . Yet, there’s a belief that in federal court you’ll litigate before a judge who will listen and rule equitably.”


Does he really mean to imply that state court judges plug their ears and rule indiscriminately, while their federal counterparts sit in “majestic courtrooms” and render real justice?

His broad characterization of state court judges raises a larger concern. What is the public to think if lawyers consider state court judges as second-class judges?

Surely Mr. Nolan meant no disrespect. But, the perception he relates—all too common among lawyers—originates in an implicit bias about the quality and performance of federal versus state court judges.

The public’s sense of justice depends on trusting the integrity, fairness, and competency of our judiciary. Whenever lawyers disparage judges generally or a class of judges specifically, the public’s sense of justice suffers. And, so too, a distinctive strength of our legal systems.


Hon. Michael B. Hyman

The author is a circuit judge on the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court, Chicago.