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At times, litigators need to persuade their clients, their adversaries, mediators, and juries. But one major audience they need to persuade is judges. These are the people who decide whether their arguments have legal merit, whether their claims can proceed, often whether their claims will succeed or the claims against their clients will be dismissed, and the ground rules for how the litigation will go.

Since judges are such an important part of commercial litigation, I thought I’d share some thoughts on working with judges.
I frequently tell people that litigation is expensive. As a result, many people only litigate disputes concerning large amounts of money, since smaller amounts are not worth the trouble or cost. But some disputes are important to people, even if the amount at stake is low. People care about being disrespected or scammed. And what may be a small amount of money to one person may be significant go another. Luckily, there is a forum for people to dispute small amounts because, in the alternative, people would take matters into their own hands. That forum is small claims court.
Following my interview with Prof. Ernest Metzger about litigation in Classical Rome, I wanted to go further back in time to learn about litigation in Ancient Athens. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from New York to any year in the past, let alone ancient times. Plus, even if I arrived there, I wouldn’t understand any Ancient Greek and would panic without cell phone reception. So instead I spoke with Prof. Adriaan Lanni, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies the Ancient Greek legal system to learn about litigation in Ancient Athens.
Once a litigant wins a litigation, a court grants her a judgment that she may need to enforce. But that judgment may only be used to collect assets within the jurisdiction of the court. This presents an issue for a litigant who wants to use the judgment to collect assets that the judgment debtor keeps somewhere else. What good is a New York judgment if the defendant owns very little in New York, but owns a house in California and keeps a bank account in Florida? Courts address this issue by letting litigants obtain local judgments based on judgments in... (More)