January 1990 - Did I Really Say That?
Judge Robert Lee Eschenburg, II of Floresville (218th District Court) notes that "you rarely write about a judge's goof" — and contributes one of his own:
I have just finished a criminal trial. During the final argument by one of the attorneys, the other attorney raised an objection. I quickly responded "overstained." Just let the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio reverse me on that!
January 1988 - But The Questions Weren't Leading
Jim Bowmer of Temple (Bowmer, Courtney) shares a World War II experience, when he "reviewed many court-martials in which both the prosecutor (Trial Judge Advocate) and defense counsel were laymen" — although any defense counsel "who managed to win one or two [was] shifted to prosecuting." According to Jim, in one case the prosecutor put himself on the stand, and proceeded to interrogate himself in Question & Answer form, with this result:
Prosecutor (to himself):
Q. Did the defendant make a statement to you?
Q. Are you sure?
January 2001 - Classic Typos
From Sue F. Reid of Dallas, this marvelous typo in "an order appointing special commissions ... in an eminent domain proceeding for the appointment of three free-holders (disinterested parties) ... for the county court at law to hear testimony and assess damages ... to the property owner." Instead, the order provided:
... for the appointment of three disinterested freeloaders ...
From the original complaint in a case I recently tried in Wichita Falls:
Plaintiff hereby gives notice of its request to have this case tried by a jury of his piers.
January 1990 - Did I Really Hear That?
From Judge Frank J. Douthitt of Henrietta, this testimony from a "45-minute hearing" that drug on past 7p.m. The issue was whether or not substituted service on the defendant, Mr. Smith, was proper (i.e., was he served at the correct residence). Lonny Morrison of Wichita Falls is questioning Smith for an attempt to set aside the default judgment:
Q. How long have you had your trailer?
A. Oh, I bought that trailer when I was opening up my Oklahoma operation.
Q. And you lived in that trailer up in Oklahoma?
A. I stayed in it when I was up there.
Q. How long did the job go in Oklahoma?
A. I don't know.
Q. Well, when did you arrive in Oklahoma?
A. Oh, I started opening that operation, I guess around October of '81.
Q. October of '81 to May. What is that, about six or seven months?
A. Oh, I don't know; about that.
Q. Well, how long was your trailer up there?
A. Thirty-three foot.
Judge Douthitt adds: Fortunately, the case was later settled and I did not have to determine whether the length of the trailer was material to the issue at hand.
July 1989 - How Much Did You Have To Drink?
From Charles E. Soechting of Houston, this excerpt from the trial testimony of the "world's most honest man."
Q. And assume with me your blood alcohol was a little over two times what the state says is intoxication. Would you agree with me, if you were to double that, that you were not the best person to judge your ability to drive a vehicle that night?
A. I believe I can drive better when I'm drinking ... (Pause, laughter in the courtroom) ... Which I hadn't drank since the accident. Taught me a lesson.
From Larry Newman of Dallas and Harold J. Delhommer of Houston sent me slightly different versions of a collection of quotations from insurance accident forms. By now, we know quite well that these could have been deposition answers to the questions: "how did the accident really happen?"
A. Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have.
A. The guy was all over the road, I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
A. The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.
February 1993 - Oh, Shucks! Oh, Lord!
From Cheryl D. Olesen of Beaumont (Wells, Peyton, etc.), this excerpt from the deposition of the owner of a construction company — with the explanation that "the questioning attorney was apparently attempting to establish that part of the delay [in completion of the job] was occasioned by company employees performing side jobs for adjoining landowners."
Q. All right. One quick last line of questions. During 1986 when you were working on Highland Avenue ... was there ever any time that people would come out and hire you or Earl to do small little construction projects for them along the way? ... I'm talking about moving driveways or installing culverts or anything to that nature?
A. No, Clint. Never happened.
Q. Have you talked to Earl about that to see if that happened?
A. Well, they would have said something to me, you know. I mean, they would not have done that. I'd kill them. Q. Is that common in the industry, though?
Ms. Stanley: What, to kill employees?
A. Oh, shucks.
Mr. Cooper: That was on the record.
A. Oh, lord!(2)
2. Cheryl Olesen footnotes: "The last I heard, the death rate among employees of the construction company did not exceed the norm.
March 2002 - Wadding Up Some Help
Donald R. Scoggins of Dallas represented a Texas cowboy, who took his mom to a local dance hall "where a male dancer appeared to surprise [her] and help celebrate her birthday" — but where "a bar room brawl" and a "wad" of trouble ensued when the son and his friend, Louis, were asked to leave by the bartendar.
Q. When you were getting ready to leave, what took place?
A. This fellar I hadn't talked to all night, never seen, come up and told me he was fixing to kick me out.
Q. This is when everybody was getting ready to leave?
A. Yes, sir.
A. I told him he better wad up some more help, I didn't think he could do it by his self.
Q. Was anybody intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol?
A. No, sir.
Q. Were you?
A. No sir. I don't get drunk in front of my mama.
Q. What did you do after [Louis hit the bartender]?
A. Whenever I seen the guy jump over the bar and land on Louis, from the time I got around through them tables and stuff, five, six people had wadded up Louis right down flat on the floor.
Peter S. Chantilis of Dallas asked why a couple, whose marriage "was sort of dead on the vine," did not get a divorce. The response:
"The only reason one hasn't given the other a divorce is they are afraid it would give the other pleasure."
May 1986 - Waxing Poetically
From Phillip C. Umphres of Dallas (Phil is an Assistant U.S. Attorney), this beginning to a Motion to Dismiss that he recently filed in a criminal case:
RESPONSE OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR RELIEF UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255
I. Motion to Dimiss
Ricky Lacardo McGee
Just couldn't wait to be free.
So he filed an appeal
And said, "Boy, what a deal,
I'll try and undo my bad plea."
Not content to await fate in the Fifth
He said, "I'll give my old lawyer
So he filed a petition
For sentence remission
And claimed his P.D. was adrift.
But the law only gives you one chance
At a time to decide where to dance,
So we're forced to implore
That this court do no more
Than consider his Motion askance.
April 2003 - Doing Voir Dire
From Paul Mewis of Houston, this excerpt from a voir dire record in a criminal case.
The Court: What kind of work do you do?
Prospective Juror: I'm a financial analyst.
The Court: How long have you been doing that?
Prospective Juror: 610 years.
The Court: Do you like it?
May 1986 - Now That's a Long Drive
From Larry Newman and Harold J. Delhommer.
Yet another accident form:
I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.
January 2000 - Did They Really Say That?
From Dick Marshall of Austin (Scott, Douglass & McConnico), this excerpt from a deposition in an oil well plugging case — in which a "provision in the force majeure clause of an oil and gas leas" was raised as a defense. The witness, one of the lessors, was being asked about a lease amendment that he and the other lessors had signed several years prior to the suit.
Q. And then down toward the bottom there is a reference to the leases that have been set out before having a clause in them that is in quotes called force majeure. Do you see that?
A. Uh-huh ...
Q. Could you take a moment here on this page that I have turned to and read it just to see if it refreshes your memory? If it doesn't, it doesn't. We will move on. I just want to —
A. This page here?
A. I dont know what this force manure (sic) is, whatever it is... I don't know the meaning of it.
January 1988 - Did I Really Hear That?
During a divorce case, the husband's secretary was being cross-examined.
Q. Are you married or unmarried?
A. Unmarried. Four times.
March 1998 - Maybe It’s Another Whole Other Country, Too
From Judge Martha J. Trudo, Texas Bar Journal, Vol. 61, No. 3 — March 1998.
The Court: Are you a United States Citizen? Were you born in the United States?
Defendant: No, ma’am.
The Court: Where were you born?
Defendant: In Louisiana.
February 2002 - The Purple Trader
From Bruce A. Campbell of Dallas (Lawson Fields), this excerpt from a pro se Motion to Quash Indictment filed in an unauthorized use of a motor vehicle case.
2). There is no evidence tending to place the Defendant at the sean [sic] of the crime, or any witness in which can identify the defendant as being the actual purple trader.