As both an attorney and judge, Thomas Moukawsher has spent the majority of his career dealing in complex litigation. And the Connecticut Superior Court judge would like to make the legal system—well, less complex.
In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Moukawsher and the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles discuss his ideas and his new book, The Common Flaw: Needless Complexity in the Courts and 50 Ways to Reduce It. Instead of advocating for legislation to simplify the court process, Moukawsher says many of his ideas could be immediately put into practice by judges.
Many of Moukawsher’s theories were developed in the wake of having to make changes in court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic while court buildings were closed. He says being forced to reexamine the habitual ways cases were heard was actually beneficial. Realizing how much could be conducted remotely gave him confidence that broader systemic changes in that direction are worth trying. One such suggestion is to conduct more jury trials remotely to increase juror numbers and diversity.
The Common Flaw contains many concrete suggestions for lawyers and attorneys to streamline trials, but it was also written to be enjoyed by the public, Moukawsher tells Rawles. To that end, concepts are liberally illustrated with cartoons, and despite having 51 chapters, the book is not doorstopper-length.
Speaking of length, one of Moukawsher’s largest concerns is that the length of time many cases drag on decreases public confidence in the legal system as a whole. He says he sees this often in family court, where conflicts that could be handled in weeks stretch out through months or years and can lead to bankruptcy.
He and Rawles also discuss his thoughts on the billable hour; how his ADHD helped him prune away unnecessary flummery in court processes; how he would rethink the job duties of law clerks; and his top tips for not fumbling cross-examinations.