The Care and Feeding of a Judge

by Lacey Herbel

Let's say you plan a trip to see your Aunt Gertrude. You've discussed it with her and you two have decided it would be easiest if you flew in and she picked you up at the airport. You'll be staying at her house, in her spare bedroom, and she plans to have your favorite meal ready when you arrive.

Aren't you excited? Can you taste the steak, mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, homemade rolls, and strawberry cheesecake? (Well, that's my favorite meal anyway.) Now imagine, you step off your stressful, six hour flight cross country. The loud baby, crying in the seat in front of you, kept you from sleeping the whole time. Since you had to get up at 4 a.m. to catch your flight, you'll be too tired to eat when you get to Aunt Gertrude's.

But wait, where IS Aunt Gertrude? You sit and wait, thinking maybe she's still looking for a parking spot. After thirty minutes, you decide it would be a good idea to call her and see where she is. She answers cheerfully (at home) and realizes who it is. "Oh, dear! I'm so sorry! I lost track of time! Why don't you just catch a cab and come on out? Wouldn't that be easier?"

Skip ahead to your arrival. You can't bear to think of that disgusting cab that smelled like someone's old gym shoes. Now it will all be fine, your mouth is watering for that homemade meal! You step into the house and think, "that's not rolls I smell, that's a wet dog!" Aunt Gertrude runs in, gives you a quick hello and quickly hands a ham sandwich to you. "Sorry, dear, didn't have time to make anything. Gotta rush to my underwater basket-weaving class! You know where your room is!"

Okay. So you're a little miffed at Aunty, but that's okay, you can choke down the dry sandwich. You're pretty tired from the flight anyway. You haul your bags to the spare room, ready to just crawl into bed and sleep until Aunty gets back.

Wait -- what's that on the quilt covering the bed? Is that Aunty's favorite pet, Rover? Sleeping, covered in mud, on your bed? Ewww! Now isn't this a great weekend?!

If your Aunt Gertrude really does this, I'm so sorry! But for most of us, this would never happen. Most people would never act like Aunt Gertrude, letting your comfort slip from her mind, causing you more trouble than help. So why do some people treat judges this way? Doesn't this just make for a stressful and unnecessarily unhappy judge? I've heard plenty of stories about how judges are often not treated with the respect they deserve. Isn't the judge one of the most important factors in a trial?

The first thing to do before contracting a judge for your trial is to find out if there are any requirements from your club, such as a budget to stay within. You don't want to hire a judge not knowing what their fees are. Judges range in fees greatly. Also, find out where the judge lives and how you would assure their transportation. Some judges prefer to drive, others prefer to fly. Whether they fly or drive can also depend on how far they live from the trial site. Once you have researched your choices, have a list of people to contact, with at least two or three names more than you'll need in case your top choices cannot accommodate your club's needs.

Contact the judges at least eight months to a year in advance. Make sure you have all of the information about your trial in front of you so that if they have a question, you can answer it quickly and easily. First, ask if they have (insert date here) open. If not, move on to your next choice. If they have the date available, ask their fees and special requests or needs when judging. If they fall within your budget range, ask if they would be interested in judging at your trial. Upon their agreement, discuss with them transportation, lodging, meals, and reconfirm their fees. Once you have their preferences for travel, lodging and meals, let them know you will be in contact with them in approximately a week, subsequent to your checking on their flights, hotels, etc.

Research the flight times and days, most accommodating motel, and tasty but quick places to eat. Have two or three flights and one hotel in mind when you contact your judge exactly one week after your first call (this will indicate to them that you are punctual and stand by your word). Inform them of the flight choices. For example, a flight on Friday at 3 p.m. might be more easily accessed for someone who gets off work early, while a flight on Saturday at 6 a.m. might be better for one judging only on Sunday. Once all decisions are agreed upon and specifications for dates and times are set, start making reservations.

If your judge is flying in and/or staying in a hotel, call the airlines and hotel they prefer. Make absolute sure that when you put a judge up in a hotel that you check the area and neighborhood Also, check to see what eating establishments are close by. It's just plain courtesy to make sure your judge has a place nearby that's clean and has quality food. Hotels with restaurants and continental breakfasts are always a plus. It allows easy access for the judge and the free breakfast saves the club money.

You can also save the club money if you put your judge up at a (non-competing) club member's house. Just make sure you know when your judge will arrive and inform the person they're staying with. It helps immensely if the place where your judge is staying is clean and easily accessed. Don't allow for "Aunt Gertrude's Rover" to cause a mess uncomfortable for your judge. Not only should it be clean, but meals should be taken care of too. If the person housing your judge isn't willing or doesn't have time to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then someone in the club should be in charge of this task.

Now you've made all the arrangements and reservations. Your judge is due to arrive in a week. You've paid for the flight and the hotel in advance or you've contacted the club member the judge is staying with. Make sure that if you're judge is flying in, someone not entered under them is there, on time, to pick them up and assure their transportation to and from where they are staying. If you don't have an available club member to pick them up, think about renting them a car. Now, the last thing you must make absolute sure you take care of. The day before the trial, order beautiful weather and have a good time!