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Your Honor

Judicial Profile of Judge Patrick J. Hanna,
U.S. Magistrate Judge

Judge Hanna displays a John Ruskin quote on his desk that says, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility.” In line with that “be the servant, not the king” philosophy, Hanna works for three clients as magistrate: the public, the Bar, and his colleagues on the Bench.

While he says being a magistrate is probably “the best legal job” around and “a lot of fun,” he – like his colleagues – sometimes pays the price of anguishing over ruling “right,” especially when “right” may not yield the result he would prefer.

With that image of anguish in mind, the Judge's answer was not surprising when we asked, “What do you wish you would have known as a practicing lawyer?” He answered, “I wish I knew that judicial decisions can be very, very difficult, and to be understanding of that.”

Hanna takes his personal and professional life as seriously as his approach to public service. For instance, when Judge Tucker Melancon suggested Hanna consider the magistrate judge's position, Hanna was strongly motivated personally. Hanna had been operating his own law firm for about 15 years and was looking forward to retiring in another five. But when Francis, Judge Hanna's wife, fell seriously ill, that anticipated career path changed along with the Judge's perspective. With Francis then working as a law clerk (she is currently clerking for Magistrate Judge Carol B. Whitehurst) in the federal courthouse, the Magistrate Judge's position offered a unique opportunity to work in proximity to her.

That decision to go with a job for quality of life reasons appears also to have been a great fit professionally judging from Hanna's obvious fulfillment from the job. He finds it especially rewarding when he is really able to help someone, and when that help is appreciated.

But if that enjoyment gives the impression that the work is not demanding, think again. Due to local shortages of active Article III judges, Hanna's typical docket of 30 pending motions has grown to 130. While Article III appointments are in the works, only time will tell when the courts are fully staffed again.

At the time of our interview, Judge Hanna reported that Mike Juneau's nomination to the open Lafayette position is in its final stage, awaiting a Senate vote; Judge Doty's nomination to the Monroe spot is at an earlier hearing stage; names are circulating for nomination to the Lake Charles judgeship; and others are being considered in Alexandria in anticipation of Judge Drell's soon taking senior status.

Until those Article III positions are filled, Judge Hanna respectfully asks our legal community to “please, be patient” with the federal courts. As a practical matter the staffing is just not yet there.

Other tips from Judge Hanna:
  • Do not bend or dis-shape the truth in the name of advocacy. Deal with the facts. Credibility is your last ten cents, and when it is gone, it is gone. (Breathe a sigh of relief: He says you would know if your credibility took a hit with him.)
  • Do not talk over your adversary in hearings.
  • Especially in contentious cases, we litigators must strive for a deeper level of professionalism.
  • Look for opportunities to grow your relationship with counsel beyond the case in front of you. [From Matt: go to lunch, grab a drink, seek them out for small talk at a local Bar function, etc.]
  • To avoid the worrisome wear and tear on litigators from the heat of battle, look for opportunities to keep it light.  



Article By Matt D. McConnell
 
 
 

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