Interview With Magistrate Judge Helena M. Barch-Kuchta of the Eastern District of California
This interview was originally published in the Committee on Federal Courts quarterly newsletter. You can find the full newsletter at https://calaw-yers.org/section/litigation/standing-committees/committee-on-federal-courts/. We invite federal practitioners interested in joining the committee to email Christian Andreu-von Euw at email@example.com.
Judge Barch-Kuchta is the newest Magistrate Judge to join the Eastern District in November 2020. A distinguished jurist who brings a wealth of experience and a unique perspective to the bench, Judge Barch-Kuchta is excited to be with the Eastern District and ready to make an impact.
1. What is the most important thing a civil or criminal attorney appearing in your courtroom should know before they enter?
Since my appointment on November 1, 2020, the courts have been "physically" closed due to Covid. So, counsel has not "appeared" in person but instead has appeared either telephonically or by Zoom. No matter how counsel appears, the most important thing an attorney should do before appearing before any court is know their case better than the court. In other words, an attorney should know every procedural and factual detail of their case. For example, when I was a staff attorney for a district court in Florida, in a pro se prisoner’s medical deliberate indifference case that proceeded to trial, a physician was testifying and made statements on the stand that were contrary to his deposition testimony. The judge knew the file, he had read the deposition and recognized that the physician was providing false testimony and alerted counsel to the issue. The physician’s counsel apologized and stated he was unaware of the discrepancy because his co-counsel covered the physician’s deposition. In my opinion, the attorney’s conduct was not acceptable. He had not adequately prepared, and he should have known every detail about his case and not have had to have been directed to the issue by the court.