© 2007 by John H. Rubin, Esq. | All rights reserved

According to the Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility, a Statement of Client’s Rights and Responsibilities must be provided to a prospective client in domestic relations matters at the initial conference and prior to the signing of a written retainer agreement (the contract between the client and attorney). The attorney is supposed to obtain the prospective client’s signed acknowledgement of receipt of the Statement of Client’s Rights and Responsibilities.

According to the Statement of Client’s Rights and Responsibilities, one of your rights is stated as follows: “You have the right to be present in court at the time that conferences are held.”

Notwithstanding this right, judges often request what is called an “attorneys only conference”, whereby you, as a litigant, are excluded from the court proceedings without the court having asked you whether or not you agree to waive your right to be present. (Sometimes the judge’s “law secretary” will request to see only the lawyers. A law secretary is an attorney who assists the judge in various aspects of cases, which may include conferences.)

The reasons why judges call for attorneys only conferences, and why most attorneys do not object to them, will not be addressed here. However, short of a litigant’s threatening or disrespectful conduct, there is no good reason why you, the litigant and consumer of the divorce and family law system, should not be present in court when the court has a conference.

There are many reasons why you should be present. It is your right. Your attendance in court will help promote transparency and accountability in a system in which the faith of the general public has been eroding. You will be able to see how your attorney is representing you. If your attorney does not know the answer to a question, or makes a mistake about a fact, your lawyer can consult with you or you can diplomatically confer with your attorney to correct him or her. You will be able to hear first hand what the judge says. There are other reasons as well.

So, prior to any court appearance or conference, do not be afraid to gently but firmly remind your attorney about your right and desire to be present in court at the time a conference is held. In fact, before signing a retainer agreement, you might want to include a provision in the retainer agreement to the effect that the attorney will “seek to protect your right to be present in court at all court conferences”.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. I invite you to contact me and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Contacting me does not create an attorney/client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to me until such time as an attorney/client relationship has been established. Email addresses are provided for your convenience and do not establish an attorney/client relationship. Sending information to John H. Rubin Law via e-mail or other means does not establish an attorney/client relationship.