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Bar Buzz: Coffee break

The Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled that a new trial is unwarranted if the judge falls asleep, unless crucial evidence or motions are involved. The judge fell asleep in a darkened courtroom and didn’t wake up when the video presentation ended.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Kevin Burke responded in “Should We Drink Strong Coffee on the Bench?” at his blog for the American Judges Association.

“Many years ago I had a civil trial where by week two, five of the six jurors had fallen asleep. When the last juror nodded off the lawyers approached the bench and pointed to the sleeping juror. In frustration, I responded that although I would wake up the juror, this was the last time I would. ‘The two of you put these jurors to sleep, so if you do it again you figure out how to wake them up.’

The issue of whether it is an abuse of discretion not to wake up jurors was never raised on appeal, but I do allow jurors to drink coffee and indeed serve it to them. So, what about us? What happens if we fall asleep? Not to worry if you are a judge in Illinois.”

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