September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Football season is here.

Lawyer 1:  When did you learn that your husband had used the retirement funds to pay off his debt?

Lawyer 2:  Objection.  Irrelevant.

Judge:  How is that relevant?

Lawyer 1:  It’s probably not.  I just threw a “Hail, Mary” hoping to hit something.

Judge:  Well, the pass is incomplete.  Call another play.

These referee signals might come in handy next time something like that comes up again in court …

Having a logic referee might help.  But even with a referee, things usually look more like this …

A previous post with a link to a catalogue of logical fallacies is here.

Referee signals from Marginal Revolution.


August 31, 2011 § 8 Comments

Federal judges have it made.

They can say what’s really on their minds without fear of an inflamed bar, or elective repercussions, or the judicial performance commission.

As Exhibit A, I offer this court order from a Texas federal district court in a discovery dispute:

As I’ve said here before, some judges have no patience for discovery disputes.

Thanks to Attorney Marcus Evans


April 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Governor Hailey Barbour has appointed himself to fill the unexpired term of Court of Appeals Judge Leslie King, whom Barbour elevated to the Supreme Court only last month.

“I had asked the Judicial Advisory Committee to make some recommendations, but then I thought ‘Whoa! Who’s more qualified than I am?’  And I decided just to go ahead and appoint myself.”

The move may signal a change in course for the governor, who has been putting out feelers for a possible run for the US Presidency.

“Who would want to be president if they can serve instead on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, even if it is a big step-down in salary?” said Barbour.

Barbour’s move will result in Lt. Governor Phil Bryant taking the reins as governor for the rest of Barbour’s term, which expires in December of this year.

“I have really enjoyed being governor,” said Barbour, “What with the budget crises, all the pardons, the flying around the country, but it’s time for a new challenge.  I look forward to whipping the court of appeals into shape.”

[Disclaimer: This post is based on the best information available, but considering today’s date, everything in this report this report may not be accurate]


March 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

English is just too confusing …

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh, and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead—it’s said like bed, not bead,
For goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose
Just look them up—and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go and thwart and cart
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Why, man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five!

– Anonymous

And if you need more proof, try this limerick …

There was an old lady from Slough
Who developed a terrible cough.
She drank half a pint
Of warm honey and mint,
But, sadly, she didn’t pull through.


Thanks to Futility Closet.


November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

In 1970, each political candidate in Oregon could specify a 12-word slogan to be printed under his name on the ballot.

Frank Hatch of Eugene, who was running as a Democrat for Congress, used this slogan:

“Anyone who thinks in 12-word slogans should not be on this ballot.”

Thanks to Futility Closet for this.


July 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

A man phones a lawyer and asks, “How much would you charge for just answering three simple questions?”
The lawyer replies, “A thousand dollars.”
“A thousand dollars!” exclaims the man. “That’s very expensive isn’t it?”
“It certainly is,” says the lawyer. “Now, what’s your third question?”


June 16, 2010 § 6 Comments

Philip Thomas, a lawyer in Jackson who publishes the MS Litigation Review & Commentary blog, has a clever piece about effective attire for the trial lawyer.  You can read it here

What interested me was the emphasis that jury-trial lawyers place on image and the subtle appearance clues that can influence jurors.  Jurors have certain expectations bred from experience, years of watching dubious tv dramas about the law, and John Grisham novels.  I remember years ago an expert at a seminar telling his audience in all sincerity that a lawyer should never wear green in the court room because it is an insincere color.  If you want that billion-dollar verdict, you need to dress like a billion dollars.  With so much at stake, who can blame a lawyer for striving to attend to even the smallest detail that could conceivably influence the outcome of a case?   

Still, I almost laughed out loud at Mr. Thomas’ references to “high waters” and a burlap suit.  My trial experience has been primarily in Chancery Court, where, of course, juries are empanelled as often as total solar eclipses.  Chancellors are just not as susceptible as jurors to appearances, probably at least in part because Chancery Judges can’t afford to dress much better than the lawyers who appear before them.  And anyway, Chancery Judges are mostly a jaded lot who have so many factors to weigh and consider in even the simplest case that we just don’t have the luxury of paying much attention to what the lawyers are wearing.  Oh sure, a jacket and tie for males and “professional attire” for females in the court room are still de rigeur in Chancery.  But that is required to preserve decorum, not to create a fashion show. 

If it is true that “Clothes make the [man/woman],” I can say emphatically that in Chancery Court, clothes do not make the lawyer.  In my many years of practicing and judging in mostly rural counties in Mississippi I have seen many a lawyer in “high waters” and burlap suits.  I have worn them myself.  I have seen lawyers in poplin suits, boiled white shirts with short sleeves, clip-on ties and galluses who were wizards in the court room.  I have seen rumpled country lawyers in laughably poorly fitting suits send nattily dressed lawyers back to their sleek offices in the city rubbing equitable knots on their sore heads.  I once tried a case in a country court room against a lawyer who had yet to remove the sewn-on tag from the sleeve of his sport coat, and I was glad to escape that trial with a squeaky victory.      

Now, I am not trying to put down Mr. Thomas or other trial lawyers who navigate the rarified atmosphere of public interest and multi-district litigation, class actions, toxic torts and other legal train wrecks with billions on the line.  You have to do what you have to do to make it work.  I understand that.  I just marvel at how sophisticated some of us have become over my nearly 40 years in bench and bar.  

As I write this, I sit at my computer in my “professional golfer” attire (even though I don’t play golf).  Nothing on the docket today, so I can relax and work on getting out an opinion that addresses five or six sets of those factors I mentioned above.  Lawyers who pop in to open an estate are free to dress as they please as long as we remain in chambers and they don’t have a client tagging along.  If we do have to head to the court room, I will be costumed in my robe, and the lawyers may feel free to wear their “high waters” or burlap suits. 

And I’ll be thankful for our relaxed atmosphere where we can focus on the essentials.

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