French Fry Follow-Up

Thanks to Carolyn Elefant of My Shingle.com for this post at Law.com Legal Blog Watch pointing out this article on the disposition of the OSC against the lawyer who told a judge she was “a few French fries short of a Happy Meal,” an event I first blogged about here. It didn’t turn out nearly as badly for the lawyer as the original OSC suggested it might. Perhaps the judge issued the OSC in a fit of pique and had a chance to calm down before the hearing. Maybe she saw some of the blogger comments, like those here or here.

Above the Law had several posts following the progress of this case, which are together on this page.

Disrespect . . . With All Due Respect

“I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you’re a few French fries short of a Happy Meal in terms of what’s likely to take place.”

This statement to a judge was made by (a) a newly minted, naive lawyer; (b) a renegade solo criminal defense attorney; (c) a criminal defendant; (d) a partner from a prestigious, nationally recognized, Chicago-based law firm.

Answer: (d).

The remark earned him an order to show cause as to why he should not be suspended from practice before the court and have his pro hac vice admission revoked.

See Above the Law for the full story.  Some commenters there actually take the judge to task.  There are also some reasonable explanations offered for the lawyer’s statement, suggesting that the judge misunderstood the comment.  But I don’t know if any of them are right.

UPDATE (5/31/07): Is it possible I show too much deference for authority? Carolyn Elefant of the My Shingle blog really made me think with this post taking the judge to task for sandbagging the lawyer and overreacting by issuing the OSC and copying every judge on the court. Unlike most of the snarky commenters at Above the Law, she explains her position. If you’re a solo, you may also want to go to her main page and scroll through some of her posts about the special burdens of solos when it comes to sanctions and ethics charges.

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Blogging about Judges Can Be Dangerous

Most lawyers like to know a little about any judge they are going to appear before in a case. If a judge is new to them, they ask around. What do other lawyers think? Does the judge normally permit aggressive discovery? Are her settlement conferences productive? Does he ask a lot of questions, or does he generally leave that to the other judges on the panel?

So it’s no surprise to me that a blog to discuss judicial performance has arisen in at least one jurisdiction. Kevin O’Keefe at Lexblog links to a Florida blog to which lawyers posted their opinions regarding judicial performance. Now an ethics complaint against a lawyer who posted highly negative comments about a judge is raising issues of professional ethics and freedom of speech. See O’Keefe’s post, and the links therein (to a newspaper article and to the blog itself), for details. Not all of the judges dislike it.

Actually, it seems like a wiki might be much better suited for this purpose. But no less dangerous.

A Different Kind of Monkey Trial – How Not to Allege Judicial Bias

Monkeys and the law don’t seem to get along.  The famous 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” was the prosecution of a high school teacher who taught that mankind descended from apes.  An article linked here today by Howard Bashman at the How Appealing blog reports that a Delaware attorney was reprimanded by that state’s Supreme Court for writing in a lower court brief that, among other things, the county board whose decision he was disputing might as well have been composed of monkeys:

The briefs were part of an appeal to Superior Court disputing a decision by New Castle County Board of License, Inspection & Review, in which he made several statements including that the county could appoint “monkeys” to the board and “simply allow the attorney to interpret the grunts and groans of the ape members and reach whatever conclusion the attorney wished from the documents of record.”

The Delaware Supreme Court found that submission of the brief violated their rules of ethics.  Though it is not apparent from the excerpts provided in the article, the court found that the brief suggested that the reviewing court would rule against the party due to bias rather than the merits of the case.

Judicial bias is a legitimate ground for appeal after the fact.  And you can even be proactive about it in California trial courts.  Better to follow prescribed procedure, though (see Code Civ. P. § 170 et seq.), than resort to monkeyshines.

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