Benchslaps, Federal Judges, Pro Se Litigants, Screw-Ups

Federal Judge Issues Sick Burn, Compares Lawyer’s Filings To Those Of Pro Se Litigant

When people in the legal profession screw up in major ways, we are there to chronicle the action, providing entertainment and education (in terms of what not to do). For example, sometimes lawyers volunteer to enlarge the size of opposing counsel’s a-holes — and get canned. Sometimes lawyers bill for 29 hours in a day and get taken to task. Sometimes lawyers blush when they accidentally request a trial “on all the c**ts”.

These things do happen, but they’re usually one-time occurrences that would otherwise be missed by the members of the legal community, if not for our coverage here at Above the Law.

On the other side of the coin, when you screw up so many times that a federal judge feels the need to publicly excoriate you with the ultimate insult — by comparing your work to that of a pro se litigant — maybe it’s time to hang your head in shame for the rest of your days…

Meet J. Allen Johnson, an attorney practicing in Indiana who knew he was in pretty deep doo doo when Judge Sarah Evans Barker opened her order of dismissal in this civil rights case as follows:

Plaintiff’s counsel, J. Allen Johnson, has tested the Court’s patience many times. We have warned him on at least five occasions that his continued disregard of the federal and local rules of procedure and the Court’s orders was a dangerous course and could result in the dismissal of this case. We have now reached the point where dismissal is necessary.

Judge Barker tossed the case out for want of prosecution. Apparently Johnson’s screw-ups were so frequent and so egregiously offensive that the judge couldn’t stand to deal with him anymore. Here’s one especially harsh example that could explain why Judge Barker finds this attorney’s repeated errors so foul:

While [we] routinely grant forbearances to pro se litigants who have repeated difficulties complying with the federal and local rules of procedure, a member of the bar of this Court, such as Attorney Johnson, is subject to higher standards and expectations. Attorney Johnson’s filings have been so poorly constructed that it is often difficult to distinguish them from pro se filings. For example, in Plaintiff’s filing titled “Response to Court Order to Respond to Propose [sic] Dismissal of Complaint against Curtis Carson/ [sic] and [sic] or Correction to Correct Error,” Attorney Johnson states that Defendant Curtis M. Carlson made “milieus false and dis-crematory” attacks against Plaintiff – apparently intending to say that Mr. Carlson made malicious, false and discriminatory attacks against her.

(Regarding the missing “we” in the first sentence, when taking down an attorney for his typos, please try not to make them yourself, Your Honor.)

Judge Barker later goes on to state in a footnote that certain “irrelevancies” in Johnson’s filing (read: allegations having little to nothing to do with the case at hand) “confirm [the Court’s] opinion that Attorney Johnson’s work product is no more sophisticated than the average, untrained pro se litigant.”

With all due respect to J. Allen Johnson, we’ve got to echo Judge Barker’s sentiments and suggest that he either shape up or ship out before he does more “dis-crematory” damage to both the English language and the legal profession at large. Good luck to you, sir, because you may need it.

(If you’re interested, you can see Judge Barker’s full Order in all its glory on the next page.)

(hidden for your protection)

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