Crime, Federal Judges, Lawyer of the Day, Murder, Ridiculousness, Trials

A Farewell to Dismiss: Judge Tolls the Bell on Hemingway Doppelganger

So, lawyers are people. Despite the importance of work, especially in Biglaw, sometimes personal life probably should take precedence over practicing law. Perhaps a wedding, a funeral, or maybe a particularly important religious holiday should win out.

But what about a defense attorney who wants to suspend a capital murder-for-hire trial to attend a look-alike contest for one of the greatest authors in American history? The short answer is: no dice. The slightly longer answer is a hilarious ruling from a federal judge denying the request….

Attorney Frank Louderback is representing Jerry Alan Bottorff, who’s accused, along with two other people, of murder for hire. The federal death penalty case had been specially set, but last week Louderback requested to suspend the trial… so he could attend the annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest. Yes. Seriously.

Undersigned counsel, a perennial contestant in the Ernest Hemingway Look-alike Contest, is scheduled to appear as a semi-finalist at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida at 6:30 P.M. on Friday, July 20, 2012.

In order to be able to be in Key West at the appointed hour, undersigned counsel has planned to depart St. Petersburg after the trial recesses on Thursday, July 19, 2012, and drive toward Key West[,] arriving on July 20, 2012.

Undersigned counsel has secured a block of six rooms to accommodate family, friends, and fans and has had to pay non-refundable deposits.

I can respect that the conference is important to Louderback (it clearly is, if he blocked out six rooms to bring his clan with him), because first and foremost, Ernest Hemingway freaking rules. I saw a guy in a café once who looked exactly like Hem, and it was pretty incredible. But I still can’t imagine writing this request with a straight face. The icing on this sadness cake is that the contest is being held at “Sloppy Joe’s.” That probably didn’t help convince the judge.

South Florida Lawyers Blog has a video of the annual Hemingway look-alike competition, in case you’re interested in seeing what Louderback will be missing this year. The blog also mentions that the St. Petersburg attorney is a self-described “perennial contestant in the Ernest Hemingway Look-alike contest.”

To Judge Steven Merryday’s credit, he handled the motion relatively respectfully — and he employed a decent sense of humor:

Between a murder-for-hire trial and an annual look-alike contest, surely Hemingway, a perfervid admirer of “grace under pressure,” would choose the trial.

At his most robust, Hemingway exemplified the intrepid defense lawyer:

He works like hell, and through it…. He has the most profound bravery…. He has had pain[] and the kind of poverty that you don’t believe[;] he has had about eight times the normal allotment of responsibilities. And he has never once compromised. He has never turned off on an easier path than the one he staked himself. It takes courage.

Dorothy Parker, The Artist’s Reward, THE NEW YORKER, Nov. 30, 1929, at 28-30 (describing Hemingway). Perhaps a lawyer who evokes Hemingway can resist relaxing frolic in favor of solemn duty.

Or, at least, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Best of luck to counsel in next year’s contest. The motion (Doc. 127) is DENIED.


Order: United States v. Jerry Alan Bottorff [United States District Court, Middle District of Florida]
For Whom the Bell Tolls [South Florida Lawyers Blog]

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