On the Radio
Do you listen to radio programs whose hosts invite you to call in with questions for her or her guests?
Have you heard the host/guest respond to a caller's query with something along the lines of "that's a good question"? Or, perhaps, with one of these:
- Very good question.
- Excellent question.
- Terrific question.
- Superb question.
- Awesome question.
- That question renews my faith in the good sense of the American people.
- Questions like that make life worth living. God, I love you.
Doesn't that make you cringe?
Queries from the Bench
If you have a law license and, in the normal course of your work, find yourself in a court room, you'll from time to time get a question from the bench. It may come from a single trial court judge or from a member of a panel. But, no matter what, you'll feel the tug of the same egomania that prompted those radio show hosts/guests to patronize the folks who inquired by grading the judicial question.
Don't give in! You'll only hurt your case!!
Avoid Sucking Up
You see, a great many judges can spot a suck-up. They may like a bit of flattery; they may even enjoy a lot of it. But sucking up gets you only so far. And, really, it doesn't persuade anybody. It may even anger the other judges on a panel — not to mention the trial judge who doesn't suffer fools gladly.
That doesn't mean you can't comment on a question. If the judge asks something that gets to the heart of the fight, don't say "great question". Say he just asked a "key question", an "important question", a "decisive question". Then give your best answer.
Grading questions marks you as presumptuous and kind of a jerk. Talk with judges instead about the importance of their questions to the case. That will help them make better decisions. It will also save you from losing the essential thing you must keep at all costs — your credibility.