December 31, 2004
 
Happy New Year!

June 1985 - How Did the Accident Happen?

This excerpt from an actual deposition originally appeared in the book "I Solemnly Swear" by Houston court reporter Jerry von Sternberg (Carlton Press, 1978).

Q. What happened then?

A. The last thing I remember I see a car up in the air, and I knew I was being turned. I blacked out for a little bit.

Q. There was a collision, right?

A. That's right. I heard somebody groaning, and I knew it was me.

December 30, 2004
 
June 1985 - Have You Ever Been in Trouble with the Law?

This excerpt from an actual deposition originally appeared in the book "I Solemnly Swear" by Houston court reporter Jerry von Sternberg (Carlton Press, 1978).

Q. Have you ever had any trouble with the law?

A. Not for no reckless driving or speeding or anything like that.

Q. Have you ever been in the penitentiary?

A. I have.

Q. What have you been in the penitentiary for?

A. For murder.

December 29, 2004
 
October 1985 - What's It All About?

This excerpt from an actual deposition originally appeared in the book "I Solemnly Swear" by Houston court reporter Jerry von Sternberg (Carlton Press, 1978).

Q. Have you talked to your lawyer about this deposition today?

A. Mr. Cox, shall I tell him?

Mr. Cox: Sure, go ahead and tell him.

Q. And what did he tell you?

A. Mr. Cox: shall I tell him?

Mr. Cox: Sure, go ahead and tell him.

A. He told me there was some smart son of a bitch down here trying to make you lie, but you tell him the truth, anyhow.

December 28, 2004
 
May 1985 - Were You in the Military Service?

This excerpt from an actual deposition originally appeared in the book "I Solemnly Swear" by Houston court reporter Jerry von Sternberg (Carlton Press, 1978).

Q. Have you ever been in the service?

A. Yes, sir. I went in in '40 and came out in less than 90 days. I was too old for what they wanted, they said.

Q. Were you given some sort of a medical discharge?

A. No. I was given an unconditional release. I didn't have enough teeth, they said.

Q. I see. You were just getting too old, huh?

A. I told them I was there to fight them, not to bite them.

December 27, 2004
 
April 1985 - Are You Married?

This excerpt from an actual deposition originally appeared in the book "I Solemnly Swear" by Houston court reporter Jerry von Sternberg (Carlton Press, 1978).

Q. What was your wife's name?

A. Her last name, you mean?

Q. Yes.

A. What is the name of that meat company on Harrisburg?

Q. That was her name?

A. I can't think.

Q. You mean you have forgotten your wife's name?

A. I mean her father's name.

Q. I'm asking for her first name, Mr. Caspar, given name. Bessie, Mildred?

A. Good darn --

Q. You mean you can't remember what your wife's first name was?

A. I'm a son of a gun.

Mr. Jennings: Tell us what you called her.

The Witness: I just called her Sweetheart or Baby.

December 23, 2004
 
September 1988 - Have You Ever Been on a Backboard?

R.D. Pattillo of Waco (Williams, Pattillo & Squires) shares one of his favorite "war stories," this excerpt from a deposition in an automobile accident case.

Q. Did you stay in the car until the ambulance arrived?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Did the ambulance attendants help you out of the car?

A. They were going to put me on a backboard and put a neck brace on, and I told them that I would prefer to walk to the ambulance.

Q. Okay. Had - I'm sorry. You said you stayed in the car all the way up until the ambulance attendants arrived.

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Then why did you volunteer to walk to the ambulance rather than have them carry you over there?

A. Have you ever been on a backboard?

Q. I can't honestly say that I know -

A. The're not very comfortable. And I was - my back hurt anyway.

Q. Uh-huh.

A. And I did not want to lie on a backboard.

Q. When were you on a backboard before?

A. I used to date an ambulance driver.

Q. Should I ask -

A. What I was doing on the backboard?

Mr. Pattillo (protectively): We may need to go off the record for just a minute.

Witness: It's not what you think.

Q. Well, if it's not what I think, why were you on the backboard?

A. Just because I wanted to lie on the backboard - just to see what it felt like.

December 22, 2004
 
May 2002 - I'm Not Appreciating Anything

From Sid S. Stover of Jasper (Seale, Stover, Bisbey & Morian), this excerpt from the deposition of his client, Sharon Clark, being taken by Marc Scheiness of Houston (Scheiness, Scott, Grossman & Cohn). Sharon Clark testified that her arm had become entangled in a large machine, horribly injuring it and that she could hear the bones breaking in her arm. Then, the next question … .

Q. What I’m trying to establish is that from the time you appreciated that you were caught and the time that you realized that your bones were breaking —

A. I’m not appreciating anything like this. I’m not understanding you saying that. I didn’t appreciate this at all.

Q. I don’t mean it that way. I mean to appreciate as to understand and realize that your bone is breaking. By “appreciate,” I’m using it in a different sense. I do not mean appreciate it as something you liked was happening to you … . I’m using the word “appreciate” in the context of appreciating in your mind what’s going on.

A. Yes.

December 21, 2004
 
April 1991 - Did I Really Ask That?

Deposition excerpts from Richard Lederer's Anguished English:

Q. At the time you first saw Dr. McCarty, had you ever seen him prior to that time?

****

Q. I Understand you're Bernie Davis's mother.

A. Yes.

Q. How long have you known him?

December 20, 2004
 
December 1999 - Classic Typos

(1) From Fred Krasny of Houston (Fred is with the Gulf Coast Legal Foundation), this typo in a letter to the Fort Bend County District Clerk:

Dear Clerk:

Enclosed please find the following documents:

1. Motion to Retain Case on Docket and Order.

Please file these in your usual manor. Return a file stamp copy of the same with the messenger.

(2) From Susan D. Motley of Dallas (Gillespie, Rozen & Watsky), this typo from a Rule 37(c) sanctions motion:

In addition, [Defendant] respectfully requests that the Court grant it any such other further relief, at law or inequity, to which the Court deems [Defendent] is justly entitled ...

December 17, 2004
 
May 2004 - Did They Really Say That?

Fernando M. Bustos of Lubbock (McCleskey, Harriger, Brazill & Graf) represented a co-defendant in a state district court in Lubbock which involved, “among other things, claims of an alleged conspiracy among the co-defendants.” These excerpts are from a hearing on a motion to transfer venue before District Judge Andrew J. Kupper. The plaintiff’s counsel was John E. Ansbach of Dallas.

Mr. Ansbach: And, Judge, why don’t we go ahead and let’s look at some cases. Nix v. Born, El Paso, no writ. Venue in a civil conspiracy suit, like we have here, may lie in any county in which an act, in furtherance of the conspiracy, took place. An act; one.

Harshberger v. Reliable-Aire, Corpus Christi Court of Appeals, writ dismissed by the Texas Supreme Court. Venue in a civil conspiracy suit may lie in any county where an act, in furtherance of the common designs done by a person at the constipator’s — I don’t like that word — instigation. Remember, on Jan. 11, 2003 —

The Court: The what?

Mr. Bustos: It should be conspirator’s on that.

The Court: I think that it says conspirator’s.

Mr. Ansbach: Thank you. You didn’t like my word?

The Court: Constipator’s?

Mr. Harriger: Would you mark that for Buchmeyer, please?

Mr. Ansbach: Please. It won’t show up in the transcript.

The Court: Well, it doesn’t look like constipator’s.

Mr. Ansbach: My apologies.

Mr. Bustos: It will “only” show up in the transcript.

Mr. Ansbach: Yeah. Harshberger v. Reliable-Aire — I apologize. I got the judge way off track now.

The Court: I thought you were making a joke. I didn’t know that you were being serious.

Mr. Ansbach: Well, my remark was pretty funny.

The Court: It turned out that way.

December 16, 2004
 
September 1991 - Cow Thieves & Unreconcilable Differences

From District Judge James E. Morgan of Comanche (220th Judicial District) an excerpt from a "recent arraignment of a cow thief:"

Court: Have you got charges in other counties, Mr. Takats?

Defendant: Yes, sir.

Court: What other counties?

Defendant: I have some...charge in Mason and I have done been through court on that one and I got time - and I got a charge in Hillsboro. I got one in Ellis County, one in Corsicana, that one in Hamilton, this one.

District Attorney: What about McLennan County, Waco?

Defendant: Yeah, McLennan County.

Is there any more -

District Attorney: That's all I know.

Court: What did you get out of Mason?

Defendant: I think it was nine calves and a cow -

Court: No. No. I'm sorry. What did you get -

Defendant: Out of Mason? Oh, ten years.

December 15, 2004
 
October 2001 - What "Spell Check" Didn't Catch

From Michael D. Schattman of Arlington (Hill Gilstrap), this error in a pleading filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sherman which proves that “Spell Check” lacks a classical education in Latin.

Motion to Reinstate and
Convert to Chapter 7
No Hearing will be
conducted on this Motion
unless a written objection
or request for hearing is filed
with the U.S. Bankruptcy Clerk,
Wells Fargo Bank Building,
660 N. Central Expressway,
#300B, Plano, Texas 75074
within twenty (20) days from
the date of filing of this
motion, unless the court,
sue sponte, or upon timely
application of a party in
interest, shortens or extends
the time for filing such
objection or request for hearing.

***

From Donald J. O’Bell of Austin, this excerpt from a June 2001 article in a Nantucket, Mass. newspaper.

Looking Backward 150 Years Ago — 1851 Court of Common Pleas — The Court of Common Please adjourned after a session of only five hours. Only one case went to a jury, and that was a trifling one, the amount claimed being thirty dollars, for which judgment was rendered. …

December 14, 2004
 
March 2000 - Classic Typos

From Tom Valega of Houston (Greenberg, Peden, etc.), this typo from a plaintiff's Original Petition:

11. All of the actions of the defendants caused the plaintiff to suffer damages including, but not limited to, loss of wages, loss of wagering capacity, shame, humiliation, attorney's fees, and emotional distress. These damages exceed the minimum jurisdictional limits of this court.

Tom adds: The court granted defendant's Special Exception widely noting "that the loss of the ability to gamble is not an element of damage recognized by Texas law."

December 13, 2004
 
November 1988 - Did I Really Hear That?

I received a letter from Cindy Singleton of Fort Worth - who is an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, as well as an instructor of legal writing at Tarrant County Junior College - which contained more than enough material for an entire column. So, thanks to Cindy (and her cohorts in the Appellate Section of the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office), here is this month's et cetera.

During a criminal case:

Defense Counsel: And to your knowledge, no theft case for theft of this car was ever filed against this lady, is that right?

A. As I answered before, to my knowledge, no.

Defense Counsel: Pass the witness.

Prosecutor: Okay. Do you want me to do it in question and answer or do I just state...

Court: Just tell me.

Narrative

Prosecutor: Okay. Basically, the fact is that the petition was filed after the time on this - on the scene and information was obtained later in regards to that petition. That was not available at the time this - at 12:40 a.m. on October the 22nd, 1985.

That's it. I don't have any further questions of myself.

***

In still another criminal case, the judge gave these instructions to begin the closing arguments:

Court: Counsel, you may now surmise your case.

December 10, 2004
 
February 1989 - Verbal Typos

From J. Michael Ball of Galveston (Gulf Coast Legal Foundation):

A police officer was testifying in a Public Intoxication case tried in one of the Justice Courts in Galveston. The officer was attempting to establish that the suspect was drunk and disorderly. Having stated his opinion that she was causing trouble upstairs, he testified "after she came down the stairs she continued to use profound language." He concluded by noting her admission, upon inquiry, that she had consumed "about a 12-pack of beer."

Michael posted a Troubling Legal Question about his testimony: "Was the use of profound language introduced for the purpose of proving the existence of a breach of the public peach or for the purpose of establishing inebriation?"

December 09, 2004
 
July 2004 - Pleading the Fifth

Judge Ralph H. Walton, Jr. of Granbury (355th District Court) revoked a defendant's probation and sentenced him to 24 months custody in the State Jail Division. He then received a letter that was part of the defendant's pro se motion to reduce his sentence - and which contained "one of the most unique reasons for invoking one's privilege against self-incrimination that I have ever heard":

"Please sir hear my case. ... Sir, the only reason I didn't get on the stand is because I had to pee really, really bad. I was afraid I was going to pee in my pants in front of the whole court. ..."

December 08, 2004
 
December 1998 - Did They Really Say That?

U.S. District Judge William Osteen (M.D.N.C) writes that a "robber entered the Wachovia Bank, Durham, N.C. on Feb. 10, 1998, walked up to a teller and handed her" this handwritten note:

I've A Gun
Do As I Say
Do Not Give Me
A Dye Pack.
Give Me All
20's-50's-100's
And No One
Will Get Hurt
Have a Good Day

December 07, 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.

December 06, 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.

December 03, 2004
 
May 2001 - Did They Really Say That?

This deposition excerpt in an automobile accident case comes from Mark A. McLean of Houston. He explains that the female witness is a co-defendant represented by Wayne Adams of Houston - and that Luke Carrabba of Houston, who represented the "target" defendant in the case, was trying to get the co-defendant witness to admit an act of contributory negligence.

Q. (By Mr. Carrabba) In general, do you think if you had been going slower, you would have had a better opportunity to avoid this accident?"

A. Well, I was going below the speed limit, so I was within the law. And, yes, if I had been going like 20 or 25 miles an hour, I might have avoided it; or if I had been going a little faster, I might have avoided it. I mean, I've thought about that; but I was, you know, below the speed limit as it was.

Q. Do you think there was any reasoning by - I'm going to object to my own question as being speculative.

Mr. Adams: Sustained. That sounds bad.

Mr. McLean: Thank you, Judge Adams.

The Witness: I haven't even seen that on TV.

Mr. Carrabba: I knew it when it was coming out. I was thinking "that is so speculative, just shut up. Okay."

December 02, 2004
 
January 1998 - Classic Typos

(1) From a letter by the U.S. Department of Agriculture concerning the status of the royalties of "an otherwise ordinary, hard-working farmer" in Wichita Falls:

Federal law does not allow discrimination of any king.

(2) From the petition in a Dallas case alleging that the plaintiff was wrongfully denied insurance proceeds after an automobile accident for various reason, including:

Lack of diligent in processing petitioner disability claim, which cause petitioner Financial account became greatly in the rear.

(3) From the petition in a premises liability suit in Houston:

The acts and omissions of Defendant WHOLE FOOLDS MARKETS, INC. as set out above constitutes a headless disregard for the rights of Plaintiff Patricia Sadler.

These classic typos were contributed by (1) Ron L. Yandell of Wichita Falls; and (2) and (3) Joseph W. Gagnon of Houston (Ramsey & Murray).

December 01, 2004
 
October 2003 - Not Strange At All

From William A. Agnew, Jr. of Lufkin, this excerpt from “a non-death penalty capital appeal” before Judge Paul White (159th Judicial District in Angelina County). Charles Meyers was cross-examining a witness named David Yount when this exchange took place.

Q. And I believe you testified that they asked if we knew where to find Ben Franklin?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Who asked?

A. Daniel did.

Q. Okay. Daniel did the talking?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Daniel was interested in finding Ben Franklin?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. To what purpose?

A. To whop him.

Q. Why?

A. Something about he had jumped on one of Daniel’s supposed cousins — cousins. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t — he never said her name, that I remember.

Q. Did you find that kind of strange, somebody you don’t know coming by your house and asking for directions to find the guy he wants to beat up?

A. In Trinity County, I don’t find that strange at all.

Q. I think you’ve come up with the best line of the trial, sir.


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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)

Inter alia An internet legal research weblog

Lawhaha Andrew McClurg's Legal Humor Headquarters




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