Q & A with Judge Cynthia A. Lane, St Clair County Circuit Court

By Maximillian (Max) H. Matthies posted 07-09-2018 13:56


Hon. Cynthia A. Lane, St. Clair County Circuit Court

Judge Lane sits on the bench of the St. Clair County Circuit Court. She was elected to this position on November 2, 2010, effective January 1, 2011. She replaced retired Judge Peter Deegan. Lane received her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and was licensed to practice law in 1980. Lane practiced law for 30 years before her election to the Circuit Court bench. At that time, she was serving as am attorney and circuit court mediator in St. Clair County.

Hon. Cynthia A. Lane on Ballotpedia


What is the worst thing a lawyer can do in court?

The worst thing a lawyer can do is to be untruthful, rude (to me, my staff, or the opposing party/counsel) or unprepared. I do not tolerate disrespectful behavior. The first incident of such behavior will get the lawyer verbal admonishment. The second incident may result in the lawyer’s being held in contempt.

What is the best thing a lawyer can do in court?

Be polite and prepared. Your pleadings and other filings should be well written, concise, and in order. It is helpful to attach to your pleadings any document referenced in them, so I do not have to search the court file for them. Be ready to answer questions relevant to the facts, the law of the case, and your client’s position.

What role does your clerk play?

My assignment clerk is responsible for calendaring and scheduling. The clerk will consult with me about the time needed for specific hearings, trials, and arraignments. Counsel should be aware of how long their trials will take when scheduling.

What role does your judicial attorney play?

Our circuit has two law clerks, both of whom are licensed attorneys. Judge West and I share a law clerk, and our chief judge, Judge Kelly, has his own law clerk. Our law clerks conduct research, review briefs, submit memoranda for the judges on issues of law, and prepare drafts of opinions and orders. They also sit in on as many hearings and conferences as possible so that they may become familiar with our process. These are entry level positions, so there is always a learning curve. Our law clerks quickly learn to become proficient at drafting straightforward and concise opinions and decisions. Law clerks often attend evidentiary hearings in order to assist in writing proposed opinions.

When is your motion call? Are there a maximum number of motions heard during motion call?

Monday is our motion day. My family law docket begins at 8:45 a.m. and lasts the entire morning; my criminal docket begins at 1:30 p.m. and lasts the entire afternoon. Both dockets include contested motions. I take the bench promptly. On my family court docket, I set a maximum of ten motions per call. On the criminal docket, I set a maximum of two to four motions, depending on the type. If I anticipate extended argument, a motion may be heard on a day other than Monday. I do not have a general civil docket.

What happens at a settlement conference?

Contested family court matters are all scheduled for pretrial or prehearing conferences. I schedule these cases so they can be finalized soon after the statutorily mandated waiting periods have expired. It is important to bring these cases to resolution so the parties can get on with their lives. It is always best for the parties to settle their differences between themselves and reach agreement, rather than having a third-party (judge) force a solution on them. Some cases, however, have to be tried, and we do try them.

At pretrial and prehearing conferences we identify and discuss the contested issues and ultimately set the matter for trial or evidentiary hearing. If specific issues cannot be resolved as the case moves along, the attorneys are encouraged to make an appointment with me to help them resolve those issues.

We do not have settlement conferences in criminal cases unless one is specifically requested.

How do I schedule a trial date?

In family court cases, the trial date is set at an in-chambers pretrial conference. In criminal cases, the trial date is given at a pretrial hearing that takes place in open court. The court rules set priorities for deciding which cases get tried first.

What do you want lawyers who are appearing in your court room to know before appearing before you?

Be on time and don’t assume that, because you are coming from another county, it’s all right to be late, because it isn’t. If, as you are travelling to the courthouse, it is clear that an event beyond your control is going to make you late, call us. Don’t make my clerk call around to find you. We understand that things of this nature happen. If you have not appeared in our jurisdiction before, call first to learn our procedures. Don’t assume all courts do things the same way.