Every now and then, it comes to my attention that there was a particularly unusual event that happened in a courtroom, or perhaps a humorous statement made on the record. While court proceedings are not generally regarded as “entertainment for the masses,” there are those times when it is just downright difficult to keep a straight face. While it could be argued that many of the semi-ridiculous courtroom quotations can be attributed to a lack of intelligence on the part of the speaker (or simply a desperate attempt to shift the blame), a number of past cases have proven that judges and attorneys are not immune to the desire to contribute to courtroom comedy.
1. Paper… Scissors… Rock on! In 2006, a Florida judge became utterly fed up with two attorneys who could not seem to come to a consensus on where to depose a witness. Rather than making a decision on his own, US District Judge Gregory Presnell decided to adopt what he called “a new form of alternative dispute resolution.” His ruling was as follows:
“At 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene… on the front steps of the [Courthouse]. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of ‘rock, paper, scissors.’ The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006.”
It would seem that no one is above the old “Rock, Paper Scissors” form of resolution, even after obtaining a law degree and passing the Bar exam. Conflict resolution methods change as people age; yet, as this judge has suggested, perhaps we should abandon the more complicated forms of problem management and resort to a more primitive solution.
2. I’m a Barbie girl… in a Barbie world. A lawsuit in 2002 between MCA (who released the song “Barbie Girl”) and Mattel (maker of the Barbie doll) turned out to be a back-and-forth exchange regarding copyrights and …well… hurt feelings. Mattel claimed that the song did not paint a positive picture of their toy, while MCA argued that their song was more a social commentary than an attack on the plastic icon. After long arguments that turned into corporate banter, a less-than-impressed judge ruled that “the parties are advised to chill.”
Clearly, judges must often take on a parental role in the courtroom. Thankfully, some see fit to do so with a sense of humor. Unfortunately, the judge did not follow his remarks with the classic “Don’t make me turn this car around!”
3. Unsportsmanlike conduct…? In a truly bizarre act on the part of an attorney, opposing counsel was actually hit over the head… oddly enough, with the permission of the judge. According to the transcript, the conversation went as follows:
Defendant’s Attorney: “Your Honor, at this time I would like to swat on the head with his client’s deposition.”
Judge: “You mean read it?”
Defendant’s Attorney: “No, I mean to swat him on the head with it. Pursuant to Rule 32, I may use the deposition ‘for any purpose’, and that’s what I want to use it for.”
Judge: “Well, it does say that… There being no objection, you may proceed.”
How many times have any of us wanted to smack someone over the head in court? I, personally, would love to be in court when a judge allowed this kind of conduct. While it may not necessarily be “kosher”, it would definitely be entertaining.
My personal favorite:
4. I’m sorry… what??
Attorney: “When he went – had you gone – and had she – if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go – gone also – would he have brought you – meaning you and she – with him to the station?”
Opposing Counsel: “Objection, your Honor! That question ought to be taken out and shot.”
It is good to know that even someone with a law degree can sometimes look like he has never taken an English class. In my opinion, this question would have been perfect if spoken by the public defender in “My Cousin Vinny”. Most likely, the witness on the stand probably took about ten minutes attempting to decipher what counsel had just asked.
It would seem that, if these situations happened more frequently, the judicial process might not be quite so intimidating (whether that is a good or bad thing is anyone’s guess). Still, come the next election, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Bill Engvall or Eddie Izzard on the ballot.
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