Judicial Divas

'At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.'

It’s not every day that attorneys repeatedly file “unintelligible” complaints that are “riddled with errors.” (Okay, maybe it is every day.)

But it’s really not every day that Drew Peterson’s attorney — yes, that Drew Peterson — attempts to file the same complaint three times, appeals to the Seventh Circuit only to get smacked down, and is then ordered to show cause as to why his federal license to practice shouldn’t be tossed out.

Let’s take a look at what Walter Maksym attempted to file, and why he faced the wrath of the Seventh Circuit earlier this week….

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Judge Sam Sparks: Probably not smiling now.

The benchslapper has become the benchslapped. Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just got smacked around by a higher authority: Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Last month, Judge Sparks issued a sharply worded order in which he compared the counsel appearing before him to squabbling schoolchildren — and invited them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as “how to telephone and communicate with a lawyer” and “how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates.” In the end, Judge Sparks ended up canceling the party, after the publicly shamed lawyers worked out their issues — but not before his infamous order received national attention within the legal community.

Many observers were amused by Judge Sparks’s order — which was not the first time His Honor has gotten saucy with lawyers in recent weeks (or in his judicial career, for that matter). But a minority felt that the order was over the top and gratuitously nasty.

Among the unamused: Edith Jones, who oversees the federal courts of Texas in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit. What did she have to say to Sam Sparks?

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Peggy Ableman

Earlier this week, we reported on the latest benchslap from Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.). In his order, Judge Sparks invited attorneys to a “kindergarten party,” to address what he perceived as childish behavior.

Judge Sparks eventually called off the party. That makes sense, since he had already achieved his goal of publicly shaming the attorneys appearing before him.

Other judges have apparently taken notice. Now comes Judge Peggy Ableman of Delaware. She has called for attorneys appearing before her to attend “a ‘special’ emergency refresher course in first year ethics and civility.”

UPDATE (5:20 PM): Darn it. Delaware Superior Court Presiding Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. has taken over the case and canceled the “refresher course,” as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

What’s really going to make the allegedly childlike attorneys squeal is that Judge Ableman scheduled her remedial class for the middle of Labor Day weekend….

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* You call that a raise? After 12 years of stagnant salaries for state judges, New York’s Commission on Judicial Compensation sure has a funny way of “correcting injustice.” [New York Times]

* Hope you had some D.C. firms on your bid list for OCI, because they seem to be on a hiring spree. Is there room for all of these newbies? [Washington Post]

* Maybe if we let Jacoby & Meyers get some non-lawyer investors, they could afford better commercials. Come on, even the ABA thinks the law should be run like a business. [New York Law Journal]

* O’Melveny wants to give new parents advice on transitioning back to work. After losing talent earlier this year, perhaps the firm could have used some transition advice itself? [The Careerist]

* My parents “ruined my life” a lot when I was a teenager, but I never sued over it. Unfortunately for these plaintiffs, being a snotty little brat isn’t a valid cause of action in Illinois. [Chicago Tribune]

In March, we ran a story about how the justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court had basically devolved into caricatures of themselves worthy of MTV reality show fame.

Apparently, in the midst of a heated debate, Justice David Prosser fell into the role of the hothead. He called a female justice a “bitch” “total bitch,” and threatened to “destroy” her. I guess this is what happens when members of the judiciary stop being polite, and start getting real –- The Real Prize World.

Anyway, you know what usually happens on the next episode of the show. We find out that the hothead isn’t just abusive with his words, but also with his fists. And that is exactly what allegedly happened earlier this month behind closed doors.

Did Prosser need to choke a bitch?

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If you see this sign, turn in the opposite direction and START RUNNING.

We’ve spent a lot time covering Wisconsin’s dysfunctional state legislature. But did you know the state’s judicial branch is just as messed up?

We’ve discussed this before, but now there’s more to report. You know any semblance of bipartisan civility has broken down when one justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court calls the chief justice a “bitch” and vows to “destroy” her.

That would be shocking language if it was bandied about in a courthouse in the Bronx, but it’s just another day of state politics in Wisconsin. I’m telling you, we’re going to have to station the USS Inside Voices Please in the Great Lakes to chill this state out…

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Who says the Midwest is more laid back than the coasts? Who says Midwesterners are more polite than people who live in big cities? Who says working in a place like Iowa affords a higher quality of life and a better work/life balance than working in a place like Chicago?

Not United States District Court Judge Mark Bennett. No sir.

We’ve written about Judge Bennett before. He’s a funny guy. The last time we saw him, he was expressing his personal bias against “East Coast law firms,” in part because he think big city lawyers possess “unsurpassed arrogance.”

But Judge Bennett might be selling himself short. I don’t think the average East Coast lawyer’s arrogance even approaches what His Honor rolls with…

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Judge Vanessa Gilmore, a self-identified judicial diva.

Back in 2007, I declared Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (S.D. Tex.) to be a judicial diva (a term I first popularized over at my original blog, Underneath Their Robes). Judge Gilmore earned this delicious distinction through such behavior as allegedly throwing objects at attorneys in open court and dumping motions in the trash for using the incorrect font.

Well, it appears that Judge Vanessa Gilmore was pleased rather than perturbed by her diva designation. As she told the Texas Lawyer, she used it in the title of her new book, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Tales From a Judicial Diva.

This is Judge Gilmore’s second book. Her first literary effort, A Boy Named Rocky, was “a coloring book for the children of incarcerated parents.” (They sure could use it — if any kids need to be taught to stay within the lines….)

Let’s learn more about Judge Gilmore’s latest book — and check out the delightfully ridiculous cover art….

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U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett won’t get the publicity of Judge Martin Feldman. Obviously, blocking President Obama’s deep-water drilling moratorium — having already disclosed investments in Transocean and Halliburton — is big news.

But Judge Bennett is making waves of his own in his Iowa courtroom. He’s decided that he wants lawyers to participate in an auction to determine who will get to serve as lead counsel in some consolidated antitrust cases.

And he informed lawyers of this with a curious email. The subject line alone is not something one expects from a federal judge:

Waterman v. VS Holding Co. et al (10cv4038) – consolidated antitrust actions – “going once, twice, sold to the lowest bidder” – ready to rumble?

Not only is this judge “ready to rumble,” he’s also ready to insult lawyers from East Coast law firms…

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Warning to the female readers of Above the Law: the reading of this post may lead to the rending of your inappropriate clothing and pulling out of your questionably-styled hair.

Earlier this month, lady lawyers gathered in Philadelphia for the ABA’s Women in Law Leadership Academy. Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer was in attendance and reported on a session featuring esteemed female judges offering advice to their trial lawyer counterparts (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro criticized women for being too timid in the courtroom. She said that “women lack the confidence that men seem to have.” Apparently the solution is the same one that women employ when they lack enthusiasm and confidence in certain other situations:

“You pretend. You fake it,” Shapiro said, adding that being prepared helps.

If faking confidence in the courtroom is as easy as feigning pleasure in the bedroom, perhaps many more women will soon be coming across as master litigators.

The judges had other advice. When a whole bunch of women get together, they just can’t help but complain about other women’s outfits and hair, after all….

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