November 30, 2004
 
January 1998 - Classic Typos

(1) From a letter confirming the mediation date of a Dallas mediator:

The fee for a dull day of mediation is seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) per day.

(2) From objections to interrogatories in a Houston case:

Objection; Defendants objection to this interrogatory is that it is over board and seeks information irrelevant and immaterial to subject litigation and is not likely to lead to discovery of inumerable evidence.

These classic typos were contributed by (1) Scott A. Barber of Garland (Brown, Brown, etc.); (2) James A. Dunn of Houston (Bennet, Dunn, etc.)

November 29, 2004
 
September 1990 - I'm Glad We Cleared That Up

Thanks to Mark Wham of Houston (Kain & Reedy) for this excerpt from his deposition in a products liability case of "the plaintiff, a woman in her twenties" - who was explaining how her injuries had "caused a lot of problems in her personal life."

Q. For example, what type of personal problems?

A. Well, I couldn't work, so I had to make money the best way I could.

Q. Okay, and how was that?

A. Um. I don't - I don't know how to answer the question.

Plaintiff's Lawyer: Can I talk to her for just a minute?

Mr. Wham: Certainly.

(Brief recess)

A. Okay. Could you ask me that again?

Q. Yes ma'am. You said that you had to make money the best way you could. What do you mean?

A. Well, I had to baby-sit.
Mark adds: "Perhaps baby-sitting is the world's secold-oldest profession."

November 24, 2004
 
[editor's note: our next post will be Monday, Nov. 29. Happy Thanksgiving!]

December 2003 - Couldn't Let it Go!

From Michael R. Ross of Houston (Tribble and Sanders), these excerpts from his deposition of the plaintiff -- who claimed he was injured when a freight elevator door hit him on the neck.

Q. Before the incident in January of 1999, have you ever been injured?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. How were you injured?

A. I got knocked off a bar stool by a car one time.

Q. By a car?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. What, did it crash into the bar?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Which bar was that?

A. The Red Door Lounge.

Q. Well, that's a different experience than many of us have had.

Mr. Stiles: I have felt that way a few times.

***

Q. Have you had any other injuries?

A. Been stabbed twice.

Q. When did that happen?

A. '95, '96, probably.

Q. And where did that happen?

A. New Orleans.

Q. New Orleans. And how did that happen?

A. My wife stabbed me. Well, she wasn't my wife the first time. The second time she was.

Q. Oh.

A. I didn't learn.

Q. You were stabbed on two different occasions, is that correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. So, your wife -- well, Charlene stabbed you with a knife the first time in the left arm.

A. The leg.

Q. The first time, the first time you were stabbed, Charlene stabbed you in the left thigh; is that correct?

A. Right.

Q. And she wasn't your wife at the time; is that correct?

A. No. sir.

Q. And then after you all were married, she stabbed you in the left arm; is that correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. What kind of knife did she use?

A. A butcher knife.

Q. Does she have a temper, this lady?

A. Whew, yes sir.

***

Q. Did your neck ever hurt you before January 1999?

A. No, sir.

Mr. Stiles: Sounds like that wife was a pain in the neck.

Couldn't let it go.

November 23, 2004
 
May 1997 - To Tell You the Truth

From Larry D. Warren of San Antonio (Ball & Weed), this excerpt from his deposition of the plaintiff in a highway construction case - in which the attorney for the plaintiff was Abner Burnett of Odessa.

Q. All right. The police report - you've just gone through you being at the Bonham Exchange nightclub the night of Nov. 11 [and] you left at 11 p.m. and went home.

A. Yes.

Q. You were at home, watched TV a while and went to bed?

A. Yes.

Q. YOu woke up the next morning about what time?

A. To tell you the truth, I can't recall.

Q. Okay, but you woke up and had breakfast with your wife and your son?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, the police report says the accident that you were involved in was Nov. 12 at 2:30 a.m.

A. Yes.

Q. Okay, so sometime while you're sleeping at your home on Perrin Beital, you were also involved in an accident at I-10 and Callaghan Road?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell me how that happened?

A.To tell you the truth -

Q. Just tell me what you know.

Mr. Burnett (wisely): You're completely lost.

The Witness: Yes, I'm completely lost.

Mr. Burnett: Can we just take a short break?

Mr. Warren: Go ahead, let's do that.

Mr. Burnett: Otherwise, we'll be here a long time.

(There was a brief recess.)

By Mr. Warren:

Q. Mr. Riojas, your attorney has advised me that you are under some sort of medication; is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. And it's your understanding that this medication affects your ability to remember things?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you just tell me briefly who is the doctor that is prescribing this type of medication for you?

A. To tell you the truth, I can't recall.

Shortly after this, the attorneys "agreed to adjourn the deposition to a later date."

November 22, 2004
 
April 1994 - Classic Typos

More examples of The Dreaded Typographical Errors from pleadings, briefs, opinions, etc.

(1) From written interrogatories in an occupational disease case in Houston: "Have you ever been in the military service? If so, state when and where you were abducted..."

(2) From proposed jury instructions in a Dallas state court trial: "You are instructed that headless disregard means..."

(3) From the draft of a deed in El Paso: "The property more particularly described by leaps and bounds as follows..."

(4) From a Houston general warranty deed "reserving unto the grantor all oil, gas, and other carbohydrates."

(5) From the page title given by West Publishing to a case involving San Jose, CA, 948 F2d 1097 (9th Cir. 1991): John Ward, Plaintiff-Appellant v. City of San Hose, et al, Defendants.

(6) From a 1991 Tarrant County Bar Association notice of a CLE luncheon speech on "Making and Meeting Objections, Particularly Heresay."

(7) And, finally, the Ultimate Typographical Error discovered in In re Chemisphere Partners, 90 B.R. 380 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 1988): "Debtors retained defendant National Survey Service to perform certain survey and typographical work as to debtors' Illinois property..."

Credits for these contributions go to (1) Bruce E. Halstead of Houston (Jones & Granger), (2) Melvin J. Klein of Dallas, (3) Ellis O. Mayfield of El Paso (Mayfield & Perrenot), (4) Gordon H. Montgomery of Dallas, (5) Donald K. Buckman of Fort Worth (Cantey & Hanger), (6) Joyce Vardeman of Forth Worth, and (7) Brian T. Moffatt of Phoenix, AZ.

November 19, 2004
 
May 2004 - Ask A Stupid Question …

Hal Monk of Bedford, who confesses that he has enjoyed the et cetera column for so many years that he “feels plum guilty for not having sent … any contributions in the past,” sent in this excerpt from the January 1993 deposition of Hollywood celebrity Zsa Zsa Gabor, Monk’s client. Larry Macon, with Akin Gump’s San Antonio office, took the deposition.

Mr. Macon: What is your date of birth?

The Witness: I don’t know.

Q. You misunderstood my question. When were you born?

A. I understood your question perfectly well. My answer is I don’t know; don’t remember.

Q. I demand an explanation of that absurd response.

A. Before we come up here, my lawyer told me how to make a good —

Mr. Monk: Just a minute, hold on —

The Witness: witness or how to do good in three —

Mr. Monk: Ms. Gabor, you don’t need to —

The Witness: Monk said I must follow three easy steps. First, to listen to the question and be sure I know what you mean. Then, answer the question just if I know for sure. But OK to say I don’t remember or I don’t know if that is truth. Do you remember being born? Of course not. Is a stupid damn question. Now, ask me something maybe I know for sure.

• • •

Monk’s Epilogue: Although the deposition continued for several hours, Mr. Macon never ascertained the witness’ birth date. But then, neither did her attorney.

November 18, 2004
 
March 2002 - Wadding Up Some Help

Donald R. Scoggins of Dallas represented a Texas cowboy (“not the local pass catching sort”), 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 bartender.

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.

Q. Okay.

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.

November 17, 2004
 
January 1998 - Memorable Answers

From Craig H. Clendenin of Houston (Benckenstein, Norvell & Nathan), this excerpt from his deposition of a home inspector:

Q. Have you suffered episodes in which you have lost your memory?

A. I don't recall.

Q. I think that answers my question.

---------

From John Haught of Beaumont (McHaffy & Weber), this excerpt from the deposition of a plaintiff who claimed her memory had been impaired by certain medication.

Q. Do you know what type of medication that was?

A. No. No. I don't recall. My memory is not very good anymore.

Q. How long have you had memory problems?

A. Oh -

Q. That wasn't a fair question, was it?

A. I can't remember. My memory got bad.

November 16, 2004
 
October 1991 - The Old "Limited Purpose" Ploy

From Larry Warner of Harlingen, this exchange occurred during the testimony of an expert witness during a criminal trial:

Q. Did you do an examination of the (cotton) swabs pertaining to [the wounds] of Sally Jane?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. What were the results of that?

Def. Attorney: Judge, I would object to him going into any results of any test. The swabs or whatever, have not been accepted into evidence, Your Honor. I would object to any test results or testimony about those matters.

Prosecutor: Your Honor, we have not made an offer of the paraffin test. We are still trying to complete the chain of custody on this matter...

The court: You are asking for results now, not custody.

Prosecutor: Well, we feel that we need to go into the results in order to develop our prosecution.

Larry ends with the observation that the prosecution was simply attempting to utilize the well-known rule: "Judge, we only want to get it in for the limited purpose of getting a conviction."

November 15, 2004
 
February 2004 - Did She Really Say That?

This contribution is from Karen Arnold-Burger of Overland Park, Kansas. Karen, who is the presiding judge for the City of Overland Park (and who is a licensed Texas attorney in inactive status), received the following e-mail from a female pro se defendant who had a trial scheduled before Karen that day.

… I am not going to be able to make my court appearance today, the transmission fell out of my car and I am going to have it towed. I am sending this e-mail to request a continuance with The Court. I know this is late, but I have no other way to get in touch with The Court. I apologize for any incontinence this may have caused. Thank you.

November 12, 2004
 
April 1986 - What Was The Nature of Your Acquaintance?

Joseph Jacobson of Dallas shares this exchange in a deposition of the husband in a bitterly contested divorce suit (taken by Thomas Mulligan of the Jones, Day "mother office" in Cleveland):

Q. Isn't it a fact that you have been running around with another woman?

A. Yes, it is, but you can't prove it!

....

Q. Did you ever stay all night with this man in New York?

A. I refuse to answer that question.

Q. Did you ever stay all night with this man in Chicago?

A. I refuse to answer that question.

Q. Did you ever stay all night with this man in Miami?

A. No.

....

Q. Isn't it true that on the night of June 11, in a prune orchard at such and such a location, you had relations with Mr. Blank on the back of his motorcycle?

(there was a complete sentence for about three minutes; then the wife replied.)

A. What was that date again?

....

Q. What was the nature of your acquaintance?

A. Oh, there wasn't no nature to it, nothing like that, at all. No nature to it. We were just friends, that's all.

November 11, 2004
 
December 1986 - Beam Me Up, Scotty!

William Powers of San Antonio (Plunkett, Gibson & Allen) was - despite the repeated warnings in this series - taking a deposition in a "routine" accident case, when this remarkable exchange occurred:

Q. Is it possible that you arrived at the south side of the intersection, and then the westbound cards on Sahara stopped before you proceeded across?

A. It's certainly possible.

Q. Is it possible that you would have proceeded across the intersection from the south side of Sahara to the north side of Sahara within five or 10 seconds of the time when the westbound vehicles on Sahara were stopped?

A. Yes, that's quite possible.

Q. When you heard this crash when you were in position labeled "Robinson" on the exhibit, did you turn to your left to look at those vehicles, or did it startle you such that you just ran across the street?

A. I - I have this impression of just teleporting to the opposite site of the street, so I did not turn and look at them, no.

Q. I have never heard the word "teleporting." What does that mean to you?

A. It's going from point "A" to point "B" without crossing the space in between.

Q. You are talking about flying?

A. No. Without crossing . You vanish over here, and you reappear over here.

Q. Sounds quite magical.

A. I'm surprised you never heard that word. I use it all the time.

MR CENNAMO: It is science fiction, Star Trek.

November 10, 2004
 
November 1992 - Beware of Expert Witness

From Stephen M. Schlacks of The Woodlands (Wetzel & Herron), this excerpt from the deposition of a doctor who had examined the plaintiff in a personal injury case - and who is being examined by the plaintiff's attorney.

Q. Okay. Before (this medical) report was typed up and finalized, did you have a chance to read it?

A. Before it was typed up?

Q.Yes.

A. That would be hard to do.

Q. I mean, looking at your notes or looking at a draft of it, Doctor.

A. There is no draft...I can read it after it has been typed. I can't read it on a dictabelt.

Q. Sure. I am with you. I appreciate the sense of humor, Doctor...

November 09, 2004
 
October 2004 - Doing Voir Dire

From Shelli Wakefield of Austin (Shelli was the Law Clerk for Magistrate Judge Stephen H. Capelle of the Western District), these answers to a Juror Questionnaire.

Do you have any physical or mental infirmity which would impair your capacity to serve as juror?

YES [x] NO [ ] If yes, please give nature of infirmity.

My wife says that I am hard of hearing.

Have you or any member of your immediate family, to the best of your knowledge, been the subject of any audit or other tax investigation by the Internal Revenue Service?

YES [x] NO [ ] If yes, please describe:

We were called in & audited. The IRS looked over our records & said we were OK & sent us home. End of story.

November 08, 2004
 
July 2001 - That's Why I Have an Attorney

From J. Robert Arnett, II of Dallas (Sopuch, Nouhan, Higgins & Arnett), this excerpt from a deposition in one of his bankruptcy cases.

Q. All right. You understand that what you're saying here is that Mr. ____ and Mr. ____ disregarded some advice that Mr. _____ gave them?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. What facts do you have that would lead you to believe that they disregarded some advice he gave them?

A. I don't need facts. That's why I have an attorney.

November 05, 2004
 
November 1990 - Taking the Fifth

John G. Gilleland of Houston was representing a client in a murder prosecution and in a related wrongful death action. During the deposition in the civil case - taken before the criminal trial - John advised his client not to answer any questions about the facts of the killing, and to claim his rights under the Fifth Amendment. Then, "when the appropriate moment came," the client tried his best.

Q. Robertson, during his lifetime did you know Bobby Joe Richardson, Jr.?

A. I (Mr. Robertson) decided to answer the question on the grounds that anything I might say would tend to irrigate (sic) - incriminate me.

November 04, 2004
 
January 2003 - Whoop-Ti-Woo

These excerpts from a murder trial in Harris County were submitted by Kevin P. Keating of Houston. Kevin is an Assistant District Attorney.

Q. Did you ever go riding around in Shystee's car before?

A. Yeah.

Q. Lots of times or a few times?

A. All the time. Anytime he fell me, I fell him. Sure, we rode together.

Q. I am not sure what you mean by --

A. It's a whole -- just like if I do this here and I mean this here, you know, you go play with my family. It's like whoop-ti-woo. You know what I am saying?

Q. No, sir, I am not sure I do. I am not sure the jury does. You are talking in a language they need to kind of understand what you mean by that.
...

(later in the deposition)
Q. You were talking on the witness stand Whoop-ti-woo. What do you mean?

A. That's like comma, period. Just like if I want to cuss a person without showing anger, it's like -- I forgot it now. He took words out of my mouth. It's like, whoa, you took it right out of my.

Q. You said whoop-ti-woo a couple of times. I lost what it meant?

A. Whoop-ti-woo.

Q. Whoop-ti-woo?

A. Yeah. It's a sentence. Like if I talk to, it would be period or comma. If you disrespect me I wouldn't say it in no word like that. I say it in whoop-ti-woo, you know, like F-you, or have you ever -- you want to say it, you're a whoop-ti-woo person, mean like you cussing.

November 03, 2004
 
July 1988 - The Smoking Shoe

According to Louis Altman of Dallas (Baskin & Novakov), the last answer in the deposition excerpt "was given in a tone of voice which may not be clear from the printed page. Resignedly, the witness testified that the prosecution had the evidence necessary to convict him and, that as a result of that evidence, he was indeed convicted."

Q. I think the question was: Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

A. Yes, sir. I mean, well, I don't know if it is nor not. We just discussed it. Anyway, in about 1968 or '69, I turned my car over and was pronounced dead at the scene and all this stuff. And the orderly at the hospital found two diet pills in my pocket and they filed charges on me for possession of a controlled substance. And I think I got like a $300 fine and a year's probation. So I don't know if that's a felony or a misdemeanor or what.

Q. Other than that, have you ever been convicted of any other offense?

A. You mean misdemeanor or you mean other than fighting and things like that?

Q. Well, if it's a lot of them, just give me the basic gist of what they are.

A. That's it. You know, just I whipped a guy - I took off my shoe and hit him with it and they filed on me for assault with a deadly weapon -

Q. Were you convicted?

A. - and kept my damn Florsheim shoe.

Q. I don't mean to pry into something that you don't want to talk about, and I'm only asking you if you've been actually convicted of these things, if you were arrested.

A. They convicted me of it. They had the shoe.

Defense Attorney: Somewhere in a room is your shoe with a sticker on it that says Exhibit 1.

Witness: Right. And they cost 75 bucks, man.

November 02, 2004
 
November 2002 - An Act of Congress

This contribution is from Oliver “Jackson” Schrumpf of Sulphur, La. (Schrumpf & Schrumpf), who serves as a grader for the Civil Procedure portion of the Louisiana Bar Exam. He “couldn’t help but chuckle” regarding this applicant’s explanation of the SIMPLEST procedure to make a foreign judgment executory in Louisiana:

[A]ttach to the petition a certified copy of the judgment along with an act of congress.

Jackson adds: I’d hate to see the hard way to make the judgment executory.

November 01, 2004
 
March 2003 - A Bunch of Pigs

From David Wille of Dallas (Baker Botts L.L.P.), this excerpt from a deposition in a patent case. David explains that the "opposing counsel handed the witness a slide presentation. Some slides had no text, but merely had graphics depicting something. One slide was a graphic illustrating a number of pigs with no text." This examination followed:

Q. (By Ms. Miller) I want to know if you're going to tell the jury that these slides are inaccurate?

A. Mr. Partridge: Objection as to form.

The Witness: How am I supposed to tell a jury if I don't know what this slide is that has a bunch of pigs whether it's accurate or not accurate?

Q. (By Ms. Miller) So it's your testimony that you have no --

A. I have no idea whether a slide that has a bunch of pigs on it is an accurate slide or isn't because I have no idea what that means.


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About the Judge


In Memory of Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, 1933-2009
Real life Texas Courtroom Humor.
From 1980 to 2008, U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer entertained lawyers far and wide with his "et cetera" column in the Texas Bar Journal. For this page, we've reached into the vault to bring you classic material spanning two decades of courtroom humor, most of which comes straight from actual depostions and trials.


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Buchmeyer's First Podcast

In June 2006, Judge Buchmeyer was interviewed by the Legal Talk Network.

Click here to listen (Windows Media format)


Classic Articles

Labor Relations: The Wututtut Review Brimelow v. Casson (& A Strike)
June 1983

Jurisdiction: Serving Satan Mayo v. Satan & His Staff
February 1984

Judicial Reasoning: "The Law Is A Ass"
December 1983

'Tis the Season
December 1984

A Fable
March 1985

Classic Article Archive

Links

Order Buchmeyer's new book, Texas Courtroom Humor (pdf format)

Ernie The Attorney Searching for Truth & Justice (in an unjust world)

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