If you’re a criminal defendant, the judge presiding over your case can have a huge impact on the outcome. Most judges, in my experience, are fair and impartial to both sides. Though there are a few outliers.

On the one hand, there are lenient judges who act with courtesy and professionalism when dealing with defendants and their attorneys. Such judges allow the defendant to fully explain his version of the facts and even give some credence what is said. Also, when a plea is tendered, they are more likely to accept or propose reasonable disposition terms.

On the other hand, there are judges who are considered “tough on crime.” These judges, while not openly biased, show their impatience and incredulousness by rolling their eyes, sighing audibly, or shaking their head as the defendant speaks. They frequently interrupt the defendant or his attorney in mid sentence to ask questions using an accusative tone. Needless to say, such judges are especially tough when it comes to hashing out a plea agreement.

It’s important to realize that judges–especially in district court–get shuffled around quite a bit. While it’s difficult to know what judge you’ll get on any particular day, it is possible to make an educated guess.

If you plan on tendering a plea to settle your case, it’s best to do so with a judge who is either fair-minded or lenient. This may require you to make a few strategic extensions with your pretrial dates. Adding an extra month or two to the proceedings to a good judge will payoff big when you actually settled your case.