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Judicial X’s and O’s

Judges, including Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser, substituted for celebrities on Friday in the version of Hollywood Squares that the Young Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar dubbed Judiciary Squares.

The judges were given evidence-related questions and contestants – and the audience – had to decide whether the judge had given the correct answer. The judges knew the answers, most of which were based on Supreme Court of Virginia cases, but had the option of answering incorrectly in the showcase continuing legal education session at the VSB annual meeting.

Retired Fairfax Circuit Judge Stan Klein moderated the game as the contestants vied to put an X or an O in the square occupied by a judge.

Kinser set a light tone for the presentation early by commenting, “I don’t think well when I’m not in Lee County.” She briefly donned the farmer’s cap she wears when tending cattle on the family farm to improve her memory and analytical skills.

The audience that filled the Cavalier Beach Club had pieces of green and red construction paper that they raised to indicate whether they agreed with the judge’s answer. Most of the questions were close enough that the red and green were almost equally divided.

Some of the discussion shifted from evidence to courtroom procedure, such as just when a judge should intervene in the case of a speaking objection or repeating a witness’s testimony. Court of Appeals Judge Cleo Powell said her preference as a trial judge generally was to wait for an objection, but retired Fairfax Circuit judge Bob Wooldridge said he believed the judge should nip such practices in the bud because the court has an independent interest in conducting a trial appropriately.

And some questions were more a test of movie knowledge than either trial evidence or procedure. Richmond Circuit Judge Bev Snukals had plenty of help when asked to recall the way “My Cousin Vinny” concluded his examination of a witness: “I got no more use for this guy.”

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