Friday, March 14, 2008

The Inexplicable Odor Of Wet Dog, Your Honor

Does the law have to be so complicated? Why do all legal briefs and judgements and summaries and motions have to be wrote in a way that not only is hard to understand, but takes you at least twice as long to read if you're even going to have any idea as to what it means? (Kind of like that sentence.) Well, they're not all like that.

Occasionally, but not nearly often enough, you run across some legal proceedings written by a judge who has had enough. I guess judges can pretty much write their rulings however they want. If you want to come across all uppity and big-wordy, you can do that. But if you just want to call a spade a spade, you can do that too. And that is what Samuel B. Kent, US District Judge in the Southern District of Texas in the Galveston Division has done.

In the case "JOHN W. BRADSHAW, Plaintiff, v. UNITY MARINE CORPORATION, INC.; CORONADO, in rem; and PHILLIPS PETROLEUM COMPANY, Defendants.", it seems as if the lawsuit was in response to personal injuries sustained while working aboard the MV Coronado, which is apparently a tugboat. Now, the guy doesn't provide any details about how he was injured, but he does state that "he was forced to climb on a piling or dolphin to leave the vessel at the time he was injured." Um, isn't there a rather noticeable different between a "piling" and a "dolphin"? Yes! There is! One is Flipper and the other is not! WTF?! Something's not right here. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. The judge is way ahead of me.

The judge continues with what is possibly one of the greatest legal prefacing statements I've ever read. " Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact — complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words — to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins" How freaking great is that?!

The judge continues with the same writing style throughout his judgement. As it gets kind of lengthy (and all I would be doing is just pasting text here), I'll just provide some highlights and his conclusion. Nice job, Your Honor.
  • "Finally, Defendant does not even provide a cite to its desired Texas limitation statute. A more bumbling approach is difficult to conceive — but wait folks. There's More! "

  • "Plaintiff responds to this deft, yet minimalist analytical wizardry with an equally gossamer wisp of an argument..."

  • "However, this is all that can be said positively for Plaintiff's Supplement, which does nothing to explain why, on the facts of this case, Plaintiff has an admiralty claim against Phillips (which probably makes some sense because Plaintiff doesn't). "

  • "...the Court commends Plaintiff for his vastly improved choice of crayon — Brick Red is much easier on the eyes than Goldenrod, and stands out much better amidst the mustard splotched about Plaintiff's briefing."

  • "But at the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig."

  • "Now, alas, the Court must return to grownup land."

  • "Take heed and be suitably awed, oh boys and girls — the Court was able to state the issue and its resolution in one paragraph ... despite dozens of pages of gibberish from the parties to the contrary!"

  • "After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented. "

  • "Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties' briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter."

  • "However, it is well known around these parts that Unity Marine's lawyer is equally likable and has been writing crisply in ink since the second grade. Some old-timers even spin yarns of an ability to type. The Court cannot speak to the veracity of such loose talk, but out of caution, the Court suggests that Plaintiff's lovable counsel had best upgrade to a nice shiny No. 2 pencil or at least sharpen what's left of the stubs of his crayons for what remains of this heart-stopping, spine-tingling action. In either case, the Court cautions Plaintiff's counsel not to run with a sharpened writing utensil in hand — he could put his eye out. "

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