Judge Anthony Frohlich has a reputation as a winner that goes well beyond Boone County. Many of us know he runs an efficient docket, is a published author and commentator, and has pioneered a widely adopted felony mediation process, but he is also a winner outside the court house.
As a soccer coach certified with the United States Soccer Federation and the National Soccer Coaches of America, he coached the United States’ DHL Men’s Soccer Team in the world championships in 1999 and 2000. Coaching a team at a world level is clearly the capstone of Judge Frohlich’s coaching career. His crowning achievement as a judge, however, is still a work in progress and when done will not be as tangible as the autographed championship jerseys hanging on his office wall. Instead, Judge Frohlich strives to bring excellence to the practice of law by challenging himself and the attorneys that practice before him to achieve excellence.
This quest to imbue the bar with an appreciation for excellence is not his stated goal, but is instead evident in how he speaks about himself and the attorneys who come before him. Judge Frohlich’s humble approach to this goal embodies the venerable aspects of being a judge, a leader, a coach, a teacher and a historian.
Judge Frohlich is generally complimentary of the quality of the work lawyers present to him. As a judge, he wants attorneys that appear before him to be prepared, and to know that he has read their briefs. He prefers that attorneys identify themselves on the record and succinctly state the sought relief. If counsel believes oral argument will take up too much time for a motion docket hearing, then ask for a special hearing time. If your motion turns upon a particular case, let the court know, and Judge Frohlich will read the case and be prepared to discuss it at motion docket.
Oral argument is an arena where Judge Frohlich brings his preparation in line with counsels’ to dig deeper on pivotal issues. He asks that counsel be prepared to do more than just recite the arguments in a brief; instead, expect questions that attempt to get to the heart of the matter. Judge Frohlich sees oral argument as time to apply pressure to an issue in a manner that results in a decision where all sides have been able to fully argue their positions. The opportunity for vigorous debate most certainly results in rigorously considered decisions. The Judge’s rules for oral argument allow each party 15 minutes to discuss the issues and 5 minutes for rebuttal. Judge Frohlich prepares questions for each party, and tries to questions each party equally. Often, before argument, he will instruct counsel on the issues he believes are central to the argument. This is especially true where a novel issue of law is before the Court. Be prepared to tell the Court why it should take a particular stance on the issue.
Another area that Judge Frohlich enjoys is summary judgment practice. He sees this area as an opportunity for counsel to efficiently pare the issues for trial. He advises counsel who file motions for summary judgment in his Court to focus on winnable issues as opposed to comprehensive motions seeking judgment on all issues—especially when it is obvious that there is a factual dispute. He believes that most issues are intertwined with disputed facts making summary judgment unattainable. But when a plaintiff presents a five count complaint, Judge Frohlich encourages counsel to seek partial summary judgment on the one or two claims subject to legal attack. This process of paring the case of extraneous issues not only brings focus to the key issues, but also brings efficiency to the process.
As well, it is best to limit reply briefs to the issues. Restating the facts, or re-arguing previously discussed points of law is unnecessary. Considering that the Judge has read the briefs, has likely prepared questions, and is focused on winnable issues, regurgitating the original motion is not necessary. Again, this approach to summary judgment practice emphasizes excellence by presuming that everyone has read what is presented.
Judge Frohlich estimates that he spends six to eight hours per week reading motions for summary judgment. When he finds the parties wasting time arguing motions with factual disputes, he may re-direct counsel to limit the issues addressed. Sticking to winnable issues preserves the Court’s time for more substantive deliberations.
Judge Frohlich also expresses his desire that attorneys practice excellence during trial. He does not want to waste the jurors’ time with an excessive number of side-bars or objections. Instead, he calls the attorneys in early or keeps them late to address issues. This is certainly more demanding on the practitioner, but Judge Frohlich has found that cases usually get tried more quickly than counsel may have expected because everyone is working harder during trial to create time-efficiency.
In trial, Judge Frohlich has two modes of operation. With a jury, he tries to be invisible so that the jurors take the proper measure of their pivotal role. He strives to be a servant to the process. In a bench trial, he will take a more active stance, going so far as to question the witnesses to fill in blanks or clarify testimony. Judge Frohlich wants to let lawyers try their case they way they want to, but he does believe that attorneys who adopt the attitude of a teacher fare better. He recognizes that certain situations may call for an aggressive approach, but experience has shown that even then the demeanor of a teacher normally wins out.
This teaching approach applies also to the witnesses. Judge Frohlich shared an anecdote from a recent trial. Counsel was cross examining her opponent’s expert. The expert was bristling under the attack and responding aggressively. Judge Frohlich perceived that things were not going well with the jury, but after chafing under the examination for some time, the expert reversed his position and began to take on the demeanor of a teacher. His mood shifted, and he began to lay out exactly what happened. It was the Judge’s opinion that the witness resurrected what was proving to be a poor effort. The jury responded to this different approach.
One problem area that arises from this practice of streamlining trials is not having enough witnesses ready. Therefore, Judge Frohlich recommends that you anticipate things moving more quickly than normal and having that one extra witness available in the hallway. He cautions that not being ready to proceed with the next witness alienates the jury.
After hitting these main points, Judge Frohlich raised a few miscellaneous issues. Perhaps the most useful piece of advice was to listen to what he is telling you. That seems obvious, but sometimes a practitioner is so focused on his view of the world that he may not be open to an alternate approach. Often, Judge Frohlich coaches counsel to consider a more effective effort. This is especially true for newer practitioners, who are still learning the basics.
He advised that he wants lawyers to pay more attention to advising the Court of changes of address. He recounted an unfortunate situation where an attorney had failed to note a change of address in the file. The clerk sent a notice to dismiss for lack of prosecution to the old address, the attorney did not receive the notice, and a valuable case was dismissed with prejudice. Again, efficiency and attention to detail lead to fewer mistakes and a more efficient court.
Another coaching tip the Judge provided was on the use of technology in the courtroom. He believes that because juries are made up of people of varying degrees of tech-savvy that trials should provide a variety of approaches to technology. Mix it up, so that someone who does not even own a smart-phone is not overwhelmed with gadgetry.
As noted above, Judge Frohlich received a great deal of national attention from his work with felony mediation. He has also taught this concept to lawyers and students from Korea to Puerto Rico as well as state bar conventions. Recently, he taught a course on judicial decision making at the Inter-American University School of Law in Puerto Rico. Beyond his law-related academic publications, he has written a historical account of Thomas Roberts, who built a solar clock in Boone County near the turn of the last Century. His historical pursuits have resulted in many historical maps, period photos of judge and clerks, and a pictorial history of the Boone County Courthouses to be displayed in the Boone County Justice Center.
What became clear after speaking with Judge Frohlich was his desire not only to set high standards for himself, but also for the many people he interacts with throughout his various activities. He leads by example. This is obvious from the two framed soccer jerseys in his office. One from his DHL world championship team and one given to him from famed female soccer star Michelle Akers signed by all of the women on the 1999 Women’s World Cup championship team. Clearly, Judge Frohlich is making a connection with those he encounter that encourages them to strive for excellence.
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