I had oral argument in Ventura this week.  Ventura is home to Division Six of the Second Appellate District.  And the Presiding Justice there is Arthur Gilbert.  You know, the Arthur Gilbert whose column appears regularly in the Daily Journal.  Presiding Justice Gilbert along with Justices Kenneth R. Yegan and Steven Z. Perren make up the entirety of the Court in Ventura (there is a vacancy at the moment for the remaining seat).

The justices also make for a welcome panel during oral argument.  Presiding Justice Gilbert sets the tone, not only by the expected command presence, but also by his engaging and encouraging manner during arguments.  And if the moment calls for it, humor. 

During the first argument, as the attorney was answering a question about a case called Caldwell, a phone started ringing in the courtroom.  While all the lawyers in the gallery glanced nervously around, Justice Gilbert glanced down a couple of times, and then after the third ring, looked at the oralist at the podium and exclaimed, "Maybe this is your lifeline calling!"  Then he picked up the phone, said "hello" a couple of times, put it down and apologized to counsel for the interruption.

The oralist resumed his answer, but before he could finish, the phone started ringing again.  After the second ring, Justice Gilbert picked up the phone and fired into it:  "So, what does the Caldwell case stand for then?!" 

Much laughter followed.

After that, the rest of the arguments that morning went uninterrupted.  At least when it comes to phone calls.  Plenty of questions were asked of the lawyers, in a setting that encouraged dialog between the Court and counsel.  For appellate lawyers, that is a welcome environment.

If you have an oral argument nugget, let me know — I’d like to hear it.