Attorney Misconduct, Benchslaps, Depositions, Federal Judges, Rudeness, Sam Sparks, Texas, Vicious Infighting

Benchslap of the Day: Judge Sparks Burns More Attorneys

Judge Sam Sparks

You do not want to mess with Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. We recently wrote about Judge Sparks accusing a lawyer appearing before him of incompetence — in a harshly worded order that pulled no punches.

Judge Sparks has been doling out stinging benchslaps for years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. In particular, His Honor has little patience for discovery disputes. In 2007, for example, he smacked down some lawyers squabbling over a deposition — in rhymed couplets, no less.

Last week, Judge Sparks lit more lawyers on fire….

On Friday, Judge Sparks invited lawyers to a hearing that he referred to as a “kindergarten party.” According to the “invitation” — er, order — “[t]he party will feature many exciting and informative lessons, including… how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates [and] how to limit depositions to reasonable subject matter.” The event is aimed at lawyers who “are unable to practice law at the level of a first year law student.”

Here’s the full order (PDF available here and Scribd version here, via Houston’s Clear Thinkers):

We generally enjoy Judge Sparks’s entertaining benchslaps. And they’re great for our traffic, too.

But here’s a question we’ll toss out to the readership: Has Judge Sparks gone too far? Is he being too hard on lawyers for, well, doing what lawyers do?

And is Judge Sparks’s snark excessive? Don’t get us wrong; it’s amusing to compare lawyers to kindergarteners — which Judge Sparks has been doing since 2004 (subscription). But is Judge Sparks trying too hard to entertain? These are judicial orders, not blog posts (where snark and entertainment are welcome).

On the other hand, and in defense of Judge Sparks, judicial orders and opinions can be pretty dry and boring. Can you fault a judge for trying to make them more engaging?

Through his benchslaps, Judge Sam Sparks is trying to teach lessons about reasonableness, civility, and collegiality. If he makes his orders more amusing, they are more likely to reach larger audiences, thanks to sites like Above the Law and email forwarding of orders among lawyers. And isn’t that, at the end of the day, good for the legal profession?

Your views are welcome, in the comments.

UPDATE (9/1/11): Judge Sparks has canceled the kindergarten party. It looks like the public shaming did the trick.

UPDATE (9/2/11): It seems that Judge Sparks’s order has inspired other judges to take similar action.

UPDATE (9/13/11): Chief Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit was not amused by Judge Sparks’s order.

Morris v. Coker: Order [U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas]
Sam Sparks’ Kindergarten Party [Houston’s Clear Thinkers]

Earlier: Benchslap of the Day: Sparks Fly When Judge Calls Lawyer ‘Incompetent’
Judge Sam Sparks Does It Again

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