Bad Ideas, Bankruptcy, Benchslaps, Biglaw, Fast Food, Practice Pointers, Rudeness

HappyMealGate: An Update on the Fry Guy

Fry Guy Fry Kid William Smith William P Smith Bill Smith McDermott Will Emery Above the Law blog.JPGEarlier this month, we wrote about how William P. Smith — a partner at McDermott Will & Emery (Chicago), and head of its bankruptcy department — landed himself in the deep-fat fryer. Smith unwisely told a bankruptcy judge, in open court, that she was “a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal.”
Well, Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff didn’t respond so well to that colorful statement. She issued a sua sponte Order to Show Cause, directing William Smith (hereinafter “the Fry Guy”) to explain why he shouldn’t be suspended from practicing in her court.
Several tipsters have directed our attention to this delightful article, from the Daily Business Review, about the Fry Guy’s “super-sized gaffe.” It describes the fallout, for both Smith and McDermott Will & Emery, from L’Affaire Happy Meal — and includes a shout-out to Above the Law.
Excerpts and discussion, after the jump.


The article, by Daniel Ostrovsky for the Daily Business Review, begins:

Saying a bankruptcy judge was “a few french fries short of a Happy Meal” may cost an out-of-state lawyer the ability to practice in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The comment already has cost Chicago-based McDermott Will & Emery partner William P. Smith his client — Miami Beach’s Mount Sinai Medical Center & Miami Heart Institute.

Ouch. Well, congratulations to the commenters who presciently speculated that the Fry Guy might get fired by the client.
Here’s our favorite part of the article:

Smith did not return calls for comment, and Mount Sinai spokeswoman Kathleen Dorkowski declined to comment on the case.

Smith’s comment and a show-cause order against him were first reported by the legal blog Above the Law.

Thanks for the shout-out, Mr. Ostrovsky! The MSM regularly “reports” things that previously appeared on ATL (like law firm salary news), but without any mention of this fine website. See, e.g., The Miami Herald; UPI. So we are always pleased and grateful on those occasions when we do receive attribution.
It seems that local lawyers are experiencing a bit of schadenfreude over the incident:

Prominent South Florida bankruptcy lawyers say Smith’s comment reflects a superior attitude that out-of-town lawyers sometimes display in South Florida courts….

“People come to the Miami and Fort Lauderdale courts, and they think that it’s a second-class court system when they come from New York or Chicago or places like that,” said Charles M. Tatelbaum, national chairman of the bankruptcy litigation and secured transaction practice at Adorno & Yoss in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I am pleased because it would have been a lot easier for [Judge Isicoff] to simply ignore it and do nothing, and this is the kind of person she is because she is going to say, ‘I am not going to stand for that.'”

But is this chip on the proverbial shoulder warranted? From an ATL reader:

“The funniest part of this article is reading the quotes from the Miami lawyers who strike me as really strangely defensive about the big-city lawyers who come down to Miami with an attitude. We’re talking about Miami here, the 7th largest metro area in the U.S.”

Laurel M Isicoff Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff Laurel Isikoff Above the Law blog.jpgThe article also discusses Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff, who is — as noted by several commenters, and reflected in the photo at right — something of a judicial hottie.

Isicoff was sworn in as the district’s first woman bankruptcy judge in February 2006. She graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1982 and spent 14 years as partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Coral Gables, Fla.

In interviews, South Florida bankruptcy lawyers praised her judicial abilities and her decision to hold Smith accountable for his words. The lawyers said Smith’s comment showed disrespect for the judge and the district.

Tatelbaum said the bankruptcy bar backed Isicoff’s appointment to the bench and described her as a “no-nonsense person” and a “super lawyer” with a “very good sense of humor.”

Prominent bankruptcy attorney Paul S. Singerman, co-chief executive officer of Berger Singerman in Miami, said Isicoff is an “even-tempered, polite and patient” judge.

And of course we loved this quote, a disavowal of “judicial diva” status for Judge Isicoff:

Mindy Mora, a partner in the bankruptcy group of Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod in Miami, said she was shocked when she learned [the Fry Guy] was an experienced head of a practice group at a top national firm.

“She’s not temperamental, she is not a diva, she is not any of the things that I have seen written about her in the blogs,” Mora said of Isicoff.

Sigh. When are people going to realize that being a diva is a GOOD thing? Here at ATL, we’re waging a one-man campaign to turn the “diva” moniker into a badge of honor. It’s been a lonely fight thus far.
We’ve reproduced and discussed mere excerpts from the Daily Business Review piece. You can read Dan Ostrovsky’s entire article, which is both informative and amusing, by clicking here. Fun stuff!
Hamburglar McDonalds Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid.jpgP.S. We owe the “Fry Guy” reference to an anonymous reader, who also quipped: “If only the case involved burglary as well… You could toss in a Hamburglar reference. Robble robble!!!”
Lawyer’s ‘Super-Size’ Gaffe Costs Him Client and Possibly Right to Practice Before Fla. Court [Daily Business Review]
Judge has a beef; lawyer faces grilling [Miami Herald]
Law Alumna Laurel Isicoff (JD’82) is first woman named to the Bankruptcy Court for Florida’s Southern District [University of Miami School of Law]
Earlier: ATL Practice Pointers: Don’t Insult the Judge in Open Court

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