Benchslaps

Canada View From Up North Many judges suffer from a grave condition called T.S.S. (Tightened Sphincter Syndrome). You don’t have to conduct an intimate examination of a judge’s nether regions to determine if he/she has T.S.S. You can pretty much guess from the symptoms: constant grumpiness, a dour expression, words chosen to make onlookers feel the immense gravity of court proceedings, decisions pronounced as if only a fool would dare appeal them, etc., etc.

Sadly, T.S.S. is not fatal, but it does make everyone who comes into contact with an infected judge feel flu-like symptoms.

Justice Joseph Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice does not suffer from T.S.S. Whatever the opposite of T.S.S. is, this dude (and I say “dude” with the highest respect) has it. Take this sentence from his epic ruling in The Hearing Clinic (Niagara Falls) Inc. v. 866073 Ontario Limited: “Fridriksson has taken everyone on a hideously time-consuming and obscenely expensive journey down his private yellow brick road to the outskirts of the Emerald City where, it appears, he has a residence. It was not a worthwhile adventure.”

Find me another judge who invokes The Wizard of Oz to stick a broomstick up a deserving plaintiff’s butt. This case is delicious for so many reasons….

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Or at least between one group of plaintiffs and one group of defendants. A Missouri judge was hearing a challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriages. Then the plaintiffs filed for summary judgment and sought a permanent injunction directing county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. All pretty standard.

But then the Missouri Family Policy Council filed a brief in support of the defendants. Which was jarring for the Judge Ortrie D. Smith since the Missouri Family Policy Council was not a party to the case and had sought no permission to file anything with the court.

Benchslap ho!

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Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused — but we are!

Judge Richard Posner isn’t trying to entertain us. He just does.

When he benchslaps prominent Biglaw partners or government lawyers fighting marriage equality, he’s not trying to be funny. He’s just trying to understand the facts of a case or get to the bottom of the legal arguments — and he’s, well, maybe not as diplomatic as some other judges in going about his business.

Let’s check out the latest argument where Judge Posner snarked on hapless counsel….

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There’s not really much to say here. There are just a few things to remember to avoid an embarrassing oral argument. Basically, don’t condescend to the judges on your appellate panel, and try to show up wearing pants (and maybe some socks). Pretty simple, right?

We’ve seen this kind of confrontational tone out of lawyers before, and it never ends well for the attorney. Like when Jones Day’s Matthew Kairis thought it wise to continuously interrupt Judge Posner in Notre Dame v. Sibelius. What happened next was… entirely predictable: Kairis ended up with an earful from Judge Posner about the proper role of an advocate before an appellate panel.

This poor fellow earns the same basic tongue-lashing, just with a different accent…

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Hit it:

Why the Miami Vice theme song? First of all, that shouldn’t be a question because it’s always the right time for Miami Vice. Second, because this story implicates the coolest guy from the 1980s: Detective Sonny Crockett.[1] How cool was Sonny Crockett? People actually watched Nash Bridges desperately pretending it was the same show except Tubbs got replaced by Cheech Marin playing José Jiménez or some other broad stereotype.

Crockett’s influence upon the 80s Zeitgeist extended to men’s fashion. Not just white suits over T-shirts, but dress shoes with no socks.

An attorney recently tried out his Sonny Crockett look in the courtroom. The judge was not as much of a Vice fan….

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In honor of the Simpsons marathon, let’s introduce each of these with a Simpsons quote.

* Dr. Hibbert: And hillbillies want to be called “Sons of the Soil,” but it ain’t gonna happen. — BofA wants that $1.3 billion verdict tossed as “unreasonable.” [Law360]

* Superintendent Chalmers: Oh, I have had it, I have had it with this school, Skinner! The low test scores, class after class of ugly, ugly children! — Suffolk University fired its president just days before school began. I’d like to think it was over their subway ads. In any event, the interim president seems to get the problem: “‘I don’t think there’s growth there,’ he said, referring to [law school] enrollment.” [Boston Globe]

* Homer: Barney’s movie had heart, but “Football in the Groin” had a football in the groin — College football kicked off last night (or Wednesday if we cared about Georgia State), so check in with the lawyer for the USC player who pretended he injured himself saving his nephew’s life. [Deadspin]

* Lionel Hutz: There’s the truth and… the truth! — Bracewell & Giuliani partner, Glenn A. Ballard Jr., got benchslapped in Texas for “an affront to this court, to the other parties and to judicial integrity.” Everything’s bigger in Texas. [Houston Chronicle]

* Chief Wiggum: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say blah blah blah blah blah blah. — After Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose, the police actually arrested a jazz musician. He got no jail time after he hired a new lawyer, Alex Spiro, who went after the cops for taking advantage of his client. [NY Daily News]

* Jimbo: You let me down, man. Now I don’t believe in nothing no more. I’m going to law school. — Professor Campos wonders if American University law school will sue students who drop out or transfer? [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

Yesterday, a California appellate court overturned the lower court’s dismissal of a malicious prosecution claim against Biglaw mainstay Latham & Watkins. According to the opinion, the lower court was wrong on the statute of limitations, but the opinion also went out of its way to express just how likely the plaintiffs were to prevail on the merits of their claim that Latham doggedly pursued them on a “non-viable” legal theory.

Latham still has an opportunity to defend itself, but the language of this opinion is certainly not encouraging.

The plaintiff already recovered over $1.6 million in fees from Latham’s client, let’s see how they do against the firm…

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Court reporters put up with a lot. Not only are they largely condescended to by the often middling attorneys they deal with every day, but they have to listen intently to everything lawyers say all the time. And when they’ve managed to turn around two days worth of testimony into a transcript by mid-morning the next day, they get a courteous nod and a “what took you so long?”

The job really is its own circle of hell. The sort of thing that might make somebody type “I hate my job” over and over and over again instead of keeping up with the proceedings.

But not every court reporter is a martyr deserving of veneration. If, for example, a court reporting service just didn’t prepare transcripts in criminal cases for months on end, they may earn themselves a hearty benchslapping…

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Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket and on Twitter, yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments weren’t fun for the defenders of Wisconsin and Indiana’s same-sex marriage bans. The three judges, especially Judge Richard Posner, were tough — very tough.

Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed, a leading chronicler of marriage-equality litigation, described the proceedings as “the most lopsided arguments over marriage bans at a federal appeals court this year.” Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress called it “a bloodbath.”

That’s no exaggeration. Let’s check out the specifics….

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Burger King bounty for Biglaw.

* Judge Posner dished out a whole lot of benchslaps at yesterday’s Seventh Circuit arguments over Indiana and Wisconsin’s bans on same-sex marriage. [BuzzFeed]

* Major U.S. and Canadian law firms chow down on Burger King’s whopper of a deal with Tim Hortons. [Am Law Daily]

* A recent Delaware court ruling on attorney-client privilege might allow in-house lawyers to speak more freely about wrongdoing at their companies, according to Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon. [DealBook / New York Times]

* The corruption trial of former Virginia governor continues; yesterday Bob McDonnell’s sister took the stand. [Washington Post]

* A favorable evidentiary ruling for Aaron Hernandez. [Fox Sports]

* And good news for Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, the two law professors running for governor and lieutenant governor of New York: the Times dissed their opponent, Andrew Cuomo, with a non-endorsement. [New York Times]

* I recently spoke with one of my cousins Joao Atienza of the Cebu Sun Star, about Above the Law and the world of legal blogging. [Cebu Sun Star]

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