July 2004 - The Winner: Most Confusing Document Title
Paul J. Van Osselaer
of Austin (Van Osselaer, Cronin & Buchanan) and Robert Slovak
of Dallas (Gardere Wynne Sewell) — who are opposing counsel in a case on my docket — jointly submitted the following:
“Paul Van Osselaer of Austin … was hoping that the alternative relief would be granted just to figure out what is going on
. He submitted this entry as a potential winner as the most confusing document title, deleting the actual names of the parties to protect the guilty. It’s from a filing in the U.S. District Court in San Antonio:
“DEFENDANT’S REPLY TO PLAINTIFF’S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO STRIKE PLAINTIFF’S REPLY TO DEFENDANT’S OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, APPLICATION FOR HEARING.”
April 2004 - He Needs No Introduction
Several years ago, I was the speaker at the graduation services at Texas Tech University School of Law. Prof. Thomas E. Baker
introduced me by announcing: “Our speaker needs no introduction” — and then he sat down!!!
Well, Prof. Baker is at it again. He is now at Florida International University in Miami, Fla. — and is the co-author of a new book: “Amicus Humorize — An Anthology of Legal Humor” (Carolina Academic Press, 700 Kent Street, Durham, NC 27701). It is a collection of legal humor that has appeared in various law reviews (this is not an oxymoron) — which includes such classics as: “The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule,” “The Gettysburg Address as Written by Law Students,” and “Chicken Law in an Eggshell.”
It’s a great addition to the world of legal humor.
January 2002 - Did They Really Ask That?
From Senior State District Judge A. D. Azios
of Houston, this incident which took place while he was trying a felony case as a visiting judge in Montgomery County. The questions are by Assistant District Attorney Mike Seiler
Q. Mrs. …, will you please identify yourself to the jury?
A. My name is Mrs. …; I am the complainant’s mother.
Q. Have you been her mother all her life?
February 2003 - The Exploding Toilet
From Melody Bock Womble
of Maryville, Tenn., this deposition excerpt “from a Federal case involving an alleged exploding toilet at a tourist motel near the Tennessee Smoky Mountains.” Melody represented the toilet manufacturer.(Examination by the motel owner’s attorney)
Q. And how long did you stay there on the commode doing your business?
A. Well, it didn’t take very long.
Q. Five minutes? 10 minutes?
A. No. It didn’t take that long. Everything went along pretty smooth.
Q. You used paper?
A. Yeah. We got rid of corn cobs a long time ago.
Discussion off the record.)
Q. You had not put any toilet paper down the commode?
A. Not — no, no.
Q. Okay. Had you used any toilet paper?
A. Yeah; I used toilet paper.
Q. But you didn’t put it down in the commode?
Q. You put it in another receptacle?
A. I guess so. A basket, we call them up home. I don’t know what you call it down here, a trash can or something.
February 1998 - Classic Typos
From Al Ellis
of Dallas - who is (Yes!) listed in the deposition transcript as (I didn'dt know that!!) "Alfred W. Ellis
" - this marvelous (!!!) typo:
Q. Can you tell us what [dental] history you received from Mr. Young ...
A. Dental history? His main complaint was that he was having some hot and cold sensitivity on the upper left, lower right, and lower left. He was having breeding gums
and receding gums, and the sensitivity was bothering him the worst.
February 1996 - After a Fashion
From Dana LeJune
of Houston (LeJune & Singer), this excerpt from the deposition of his client, "an elderly Cajun woman who was suing a jewelry store for switching the diamond in her ring while it was being worked on." Or, at least those were her claims "after a fashion."
Q. How did he identify the ring as yours?
A. He had it in his hands.
Q. Well, ma'am, what documentation did he prepare to show that he had received your ring?
A. Oh, after a fashion
, yes. He put it in the little envelope and gave me a tag off of the envelope.
Q. Okay. What was the one word, after a fashion
A. What is that?
A. He held the ring in his hands and kept looking at the ring - that stone.
Q. Ma'am, you've said that. But what does "fashion" mean
Mr. LeJune: She's telling you
A. The fashion is what he did.
Mr. LeJune: It's a colloquialism
Defense Attorney: What's it mean?
Mr. LeJune: It means after he fidgeted with it and did what he wanted to do with it.
Defense Attorney: Ok.
Mr. LeJune: After a fashion. Look it up.
Defense Attorney: Well, you'll have to pardon my ignorance here: but I'm sorry. I'm just trying to make it clear for the jury. They may not know what you mean either if that's a colloquially or something
July 2004 - Did They Really Say That?
From Michael S. Wright
of Houston (McCormick, Hancock & Newton), this excerpt from the deposition of “a witness to an 18-wheeler auto accident who was kind enough to leave his business card with the driver of the 18-wheeler.”
Q. Okay. That’s all I’ve got. Oh, there was a dog in the car. Did you see a dog in the car before this accident?
A. I saw the dog in the car as he flew past me
. But when I got to the accident, there was nothing in the car but dog hair and defecation on the front seat.
Q. Dog hair and dog poop?
Q. So you left your business card with the Southeastern driver, and the dog left his business card in the Saturn vehicle?
A. That would be correct.
Q. That’s all the questions I’ve got. Thanks for your time.
June 1990 - Did I Really Hear That - Trials
From a labor arbitration hearing involving Ralph Phinney
of Dallas and Durwood Crawford,
also of Dallas:
Arbitrator: Do you wish to make an opening statement at this time?
Phinney: Was that an opening statement?
Arbitrator: That's what I thought it was.
Crawford: Was it that bad?
Phinney: Yea, it really was, Durwood. It rambled a little bit and it lacked substance in a place or two.
March 2002 - Did They Really Say That?
This excerpt from District Judge Sid L. Harle
of San Antonio (226th District Court). The case involved “a reluctant witness who didn’t like the prosecutor inquiring repeatedly about remote events.”
Q. You don’t remember what you told him?
A. No. You are asking me questions that are over about two or three years ago.
A. And then you want me to sit here and go word for word and I can’t do that. I don’t have no pornographic [sic] memory.
June 1990 - I'm Glad We Cleared That Up
From March Lynn Rothams
of Beaumont (Benckenstein, Oxford, etc.), this remarkable(!) excerpt from a deposition taken by Mary Ellen Blade, a partner at the same firm:
Q. Did you die, as far as you know?
A. I don't know nothing.
Q. Has anybody told you that you died?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. Who told you that you died?
A. My cousins and my wife and the other people.
Q. What other people?
A. The - friends.
Q. Did any doctor ever tell you that you died?
A. Yeah, my doctor, too.
Q. But you don't remember it yourself?
A. No. How can you remember you're dead? You no can remember.
Q. I was kind of curious to see if you had any recollection of it. Do you know how long you were supposed to have been dead?
A. No, ma'am.
September 1989 - Let's Be Particularly Careful Out There
W. Bruce Woody
of Dallas sends these excerpts from the "deposition of one of my clients who believes in making the opposition work for their answers."
Q. What was his association with the bank?
A. Represented himself to be the president of the bank. I kind of felt he was. He had a big plaque that said "President."
Q. And he was your son; is that correct?
A. How far is up? How long is a piece of string? I don't know. This is a five-year-old document, isn't it?
Q. Was it prepared by a secretary or someone working at the bank?
A. I can't answer that, I want to assure you, I don't even know what I watched on television last night.
Q. Would you describe the meeting.
A. ...He says, "I'm your gift from God. I have all powers to do all things. I have instructions to get with you and sell this property. Can you come down to my office and meet with me tomorrow?" I said, "yep." I may have said "yes." But I certainly agreed.
Q. Do you know why there is a difference between the two figures?
A. Well, I'm right and he's wrong, and that's all that really matters.
January 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?
of Houston (Fulbright & Jaworski) sends an excerpt from a deposition he took years ago "when, as an associate at our firm, I was defending an automobile accident case. During the deposition of the plaintiff, a woman who was not well educated and not particularly bright," this took place:
Q. Did you have your seat belt on at the time of the accident?
A. No sir, but I had my girdle on
David confesses that "Being a young lawyer and fairly naive, I simply moved on to another topic. However, to this day, I sometimes wonder what the plaintiff in that case thought I was really
April 2004 - Defining the Specialties
This excerpt from the recent deposition of a doctor comes from Richard E. Hanson
of Wichita Falls (Oldham & Hanson).
Q. But when it comes to a surgeon, you’re kind of separate and distinct from all the other medical specialties; that is, you actually go in and perform surgical procedures on the human body; is that correct?
A. Well, it brings to my mind an old aphorism. Internists, which is kind of what, in part, you know, gastroenterology is, they know everything but they don’t do anything. Now, surgeons aren’t supposed to know anything, but they do it all. Now, pathologists know everything and do everything, but it’s all too late.
November 1987 - Did I Really Hear That in East Texas?
of Conroe shares this deposition story - which "involves testimony of the plaintiff in a DTPA suit, being questioned by a representative of one of the 'big boys,' Vinson & Elkins," the attorneys for a defendant realtor.
Q. I'd like to ask you about your medical condition that we've heard testimony about. When did you first notice this medical condition or problem?
A. I had a pulmonary embolism in 1969.
A. '74. Wrong child.
Q. Okay. I take it this was in conjunction with childbirth?
Q. And after this embolism, did you recover?
A. Yes. I didn't die.
November 1987 - Did I Really Hear That in East Texas?
of Tyler (Porter, Guinn, Minton...) contributes this excerpt from a recent deposition in a Smith County personal injury case:
Q. And are you suggesting that you didn't have difficulty which caused the surgery in '84?
A. No, sir. I did not have no problem that caused it, other than getting blowed off the top of the truck
, about a 12 or 14 foot fall.
Q. All right, sir.
May 2003 - Did They Really Say That?
This contribution from District Judge Kelly G. Moore
of Brownfield (121st District Court). He explains that “one of the hotly contested issues in a recent wrongful death trial in my court centered around the speed of a tractor trailer rig as it made a turn. Plaintiff’s attorney Steven Malouf
of Dallas called the truck driver as an adverse witness and gained several admissions related to the speed of the vehicle.”
Defense attorney Larry Wharton
of Lubbock decided to try to simplify the issue
for the jury by having the driver explain the mechanics of making a turn to the jury. The attached question and answer resulted. Nothing like a simple explanation to move the process along.
Q. (By Mr. Wharton) Explain to the jury what you do when you make a right hand turn in regards to the actual operation of your vehicle in terms of the gears?
A. Well, you have to slow the truck down with the gears at the same time while you’re tapping the brake. So you tap the brake a little and slow it down. And then when it comes down to a certain RPM — I got a five and a four in that one. So you’re in 3rd here and you’re in 3rd and 4th, then you’ll go for a 3rd and 3rd, which you’re gearing up in your auxiliary which has four gears here and your main box has five. So when your auxiliary is going from 3rd and 4th to 3rd and 3rd, 3rd and 4th maxed out you’re talking 25 to 26 miles an hour maxed out, but you’ve got to be lower than that to get it back in the 3rd and 3rd or it won’t go in. You got to drop your RPM’s down to get it from 3rd and 4th to 3rd and 3rd before you go into it.
January 2002 - On The Lighter Side
This excerpt from some of my et cetera collection that were published in a federal judges publication. In a criminal jury trial, the AUSA was questioning a young man.
Q. Were you in high school last year?
Q. What are you doing now?
A. I’m sitting here in this chair.
September 2004 - Did They Really Say That?
From Matt Anderson
of Wichita Falls (Gibson, Hotchkiss, Roach & Davenport), this excerpt from a deposition taken by his friend, John Rosentreter:
Q. Would you state your full name for the record, please?
A. William Robin Hood.
Q. Did you get teased a lot as a kid?
A. Not until now.
May 1989 - What Was That Again?
From John B. Hall
of Houston (Liddell, Sapp), this excerpt from a deposition he took in a DTPA case; the witness volunteers a reason why he is not sure whether a particular meeting took place several years earlier.
A. I have a little bit of loss of memory since I was in this car accident, but I may have met with her another time.
Q. When were you in a car accident?
A. In 1964.
Q. Well, I mean, did you lose the memory - did you lose your pre-1964 memory or did you just have a memory problem since then?
A. I may have a memory problem since then, but maybe not. I think I met with her one other time, but I can't say for sure, you know.
Q. Have you ever taken any medication or anything like that for a memory problem?
Q. Am I the first person you have told about your memory problem?
A. I think so. Yeah.
Q. At least if you told anybody else, you can't remember?
John adds: "Regrettably, I failed to ask the perfect follow-up question. 'Would it be fair to say that you think you have a memory problem, but you just can't remember what it is?'
October 1987 - 71,000 Pounds of Nickel
Thomas A. Croft
of Houston (Porter & Clements) confesses that he asked the following questions in a deposition in a case involving "the unexplained disappearance of 71,000 pounds of nickel from a warehouse." He also apologizes for the "court reporter's misspelling of your name."
Q. (By Mr. Croft) What kind of physical volume are we talking about, Mr. Williams, with this 71,000 pounds of nickel? How much does it weigh?
Q. That one may make Jerry Butmyer's column
. In other words, what kind of volume are we talking about?
The witness eventually answered that "the nickel would fit in two 40-foot trailers."
Tom does explain that after the deposition, he learned that this question was "not quite as stupid as it sounds. Apparently, the nickel involved was less than 100 percent pure, and the 71,000 pound label refers to the weight of the nickel itself and not the weight of the semi-pure compound. Thus, the real answer to the silly question is something more than 71,000 pounds."
October 1987 - I Don't Consort, Either
of Houston (Fulbright & Jaworski) sent this excerpt from a personal injury deposition, explaining that "the husband and wife plaintiffs claimed the usual subjective damages
, allegedly caused by bad air in a building leased from my client."
Q. All right. Physical pain and anguish, past and future, can you put a number on that for me?
A. A million dollars.
Q. Do you know what a consortium is? Consortium, you have asked for a loss of consortium.
Q. You agree with your husband that you haven't had any physical problems in your marriage relations?
A. That refers to his - deals of the board of directors of several corporations and being an accountant with other accountants, that doesn't apply to me.
Q. Oh, I see.
A. I don't think so.