Why can’t judges use their own knowledge of the law to fill in any gaps that the lawyers may have missed?
Actually, they can do just that, to an extent.
Their power and discretion are not unlimited, but if they catch certain errors and omissions in the lawyers’ pleadings and arguments, judges not only may note and take steps to correct those errors and omissions, but in most situations they are obligated to correct the legal errors and omissions they catch, so that they do their jobs as well and as effectively as they can in the administration of justice. This does not mean that a court must “save” a sloppy or careless lawyer from himself or even save the client from the consequences of the errors and omissions his/her sloppy or careless lawyer causes. This also does not mean that a judge must (or even legally can) “level the playing field” if one party’s lawyer is better than the other, although sometimes you will see that happen (and truth be told, as long as the judge’s attempts to level the playing field don’t come at the expense of or prejudice to the more competent attorney’s efforts to do his/her job properly and effectively, it’s hard to find anything truly morally or ethically wrong with it, except perhaps the risk of going too far).
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