March 31, 2005
 
April 2005 - A Marvelous Answer

This contribution from David W. Lindemood of Midland is from a CPS trial before District Judge Dean Rucker (318th District Court) in which Lindemood was the attorney ad litem for the child. The witness, who was the CASA guardian ad litem, is being questioned by Chris McCormack of Midland.

Q. As I understand your testimony about Ms. Ybarra's residence, living situation, you only went into one of the homes that she lived in? Do I have that right?

A. Two.

Q. Two. And on each occasion that you went in there, the residence was clean and orderly, generally - or actually, one was clean and orderly, and one was a little messy, a bachelor pad, as I recall now.

A. That's right.

Q. But no - other than being a little messy, it was not filthy or dirty? Umkempt?

A. It was being swept up and picked up with a shovel.

March 30, 2005
 
September 1989 - Let's Be Particularly Careful Out There

From Ben Janacek, criminal investigator of the Fort Bend County Criminal District Attorney's Office, comes this excerpt from "a probable cause hearing I worked on as a police department detective in Boulder, CO." The crime: three men pulled ski masks over their faces, one pulled a gun, and they "stuck up" the first pedestrian they met; then, they escaped in their car and - while the victim was giving Ben Janacek "descriptions of the clothing, vehicle, and direction of travel" - the car was stopped in a neighboring city and the culprits were arrested. The testimony: the police officer who stopped the defendants is describing statements made by "Suspect Richardson."

"Mr. Richardson told me we didn't have any pictures, and we didn't have any witnesses. I told Mr. Richardson that Detective Janacek indicated that he did have witnesses who could identify at least one and possibly all of the suspects. Mr. Richardon at that pointed indicated to me that he could not be identified, meaning Richardson could not be identified because he wore a mask. In fact, his exact words are, "the witness can't identify me because I had a mask on."

March 29, 2005
 
June 2001 - The Competency Hearing

Mark D. Wilson of Houston sent me a section from a book written by the father of one of his good friends. The book, "A Dollar a Mile, Fifty Cents a Gate," by James G. Taylor, M.D., contains this marvelous (!!) excerpt "detailing some testimony at a competency hearing."

Judge Jack Pierce asked me to come over to the courthouse one day to evaluate the mental status of a man waiting in his office. Though I can't recall the man's name or the relevance of his presence before the judge, I do remember his response to a line of questioning I'd been trained to use in such situations.

I questioned him succinctly.

"Is anyone after you?"

"No."

"Are you afraid enough to feel the need of killing a person?"

"No."

"Do you hear voices?"

"No."

"Do you hear things you are unable to see?"

"Yep."

I paused and asked him quietly, "What do you think they are?"

"Mosquitoes," he answered.

My evaluation for the judge was just as concise. "Judge, in my opinion, this man is normal, and smarter than I am."

March 28, 2005
 
September 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?

From Steven W. Harris of Austin (Clark, Thomas), a deposition excerpt from a case involving "allegations by the plaintiff that a pesticide business improperly applied pesticide and over-exposed him, causing toxic effects" - which rather conclusively establishes "the intellectual level of Austin roaches."

Q. When you say you left some [notices] in the apartment, where would they be left in the apartment?

A. Normally, they were dropped right in the entryway so that as soon as you opened the door you saw the notice.

Q. That's each individual apartment? And all they said was that your apartment had been sprayed by Specialty Pest Control.

A. Yes.

Q. No date given or the type of pesticide or anything.

A. No.

Q And that was not the type of spraying that was done in this case, is that right?

A. That's right. Normally, it was when we used a Vaponite bomb, total release aerosol.

Q. What's that for?

A. It's to drive the insects out of the cracks and crevices.

Q. And how long were they supposed to stay out?

A. Normally, we asked them to stay out for four hours.

March 25, 2005
 
March 2003 - Beam Me Up, Scottie!

This contribution is from Timothy K. Borchers of Seattle, Wash. (Cozen O'Connor). It's from the deposition of an accountant "who was adjusting the damage claims offered by a plaintiff in a $100 million products liability class action. The witness was asked to identify all of the managers, staff accountants, and other employees who worked on the project."

A. And at the times, I have conferred with Marilee Hopkins, Charles Kuyk, spelled K U Y K.

Q. And you say that "Kuyk?"

A. Yes.

Q. Like Captain Kirk?

A. I'd never say that to him, but he was in the Air Force.

Q. Okay.

A. If you had fun with that name, you'll like this one. James Brown.

Q. How's he feeling?

A. Good.

Mr. Anderle: I knew that he would.

Q. Okay, who is next?

A. I'm trying to top those.

March 24, 2005
 
February 2005 - The Force Majeure Clause

Donna K. Ralli of Fort Worth, who is an attorney with Healthpoint, received an agreement from a consulting company in Tennessee and couldn't believe her eyes when she reviewed the Force Majeure clause:

(f) Force Majeure. Neither party shall be liable nor deemed to be in default of its obligations hereunder for any delay or failure in performance under this Agreement or other interruption of service resulting, directly or indirectly, from acts of God, civil or military authority, any acts of war or civil unrest including, but not limited to, terrorist attacks, intergalactic confrontations, accidents, natural disasters or catastrophes, strikes, or other work stoppages or any other cause beyond the ... reaasonable control of the party affected thereby ...

Donna adds: "I just hope we can count on the support of Luke Skywalker, C3PO, and Chewbacca (and lest we forget, little R2D2) when these confrontations occur, because we all know what a bad rap the pharmaceutical industry is getting lately and Healthpoint is not part of the Dark Side ..."

March 23, 2005
 
December 1988 - Did I Really Hear That?

Well, he might have been adopted...

Q. Would you please tell us what your relationship is to Mr. Clifton?

A. He's my son.

Q. And how long have you known him?

A. All of his life.

Q. All of his life?

A. Yes.

March 22, 2005
 
January 2005 - The Memory Problem

From Alex Katzman of San Antonio (Katzman & Katzman), this excerpt from the deposition of a human resources employee in a gender discrimination and retaliation case:

Q. Okay. The testimony that you gave, was it incident to a lawsuit brought by an employee for CPS?

A. And, you know, I could be getting it confused with today's.

Q. Do you have a problem with your memory?

A. I would have to see some kind of document and try to remember that.

March 21, 2005
 
December 1988 - Did I Really Ask That?

From a murder trial:

Q. (By prosecutor) and you could tell that the injuries were sustained before death and not as a result of the autopsy.

A. (By medical examiner) Yes, because the body does not bruse after death.

Q. And you do not perform autopsies on living people?

A. No, that's considered bad form.

March 18, 2005
 
July 1990 - Is That Objectionable?

From Lance E.Houghtling of Tulsa (Richardson, Meier), this excerpt from the deposition of a forensic pathologist:

Q. I guess what I'm asking ... is that, as a medical examiner, you have a report here stating from your investigator "apparent homicide." I guess my question is: Is it normal for a medical examiner, based on the autopsy such as was done here in this case, to go ahead and rule suicide in view of the fact that her medical examiner that was on the scene had put "apparent homicide" in her report without talking to that investigator?

Defense Attorney: I'm going to object to the form of the question to the extent it's seeking to establish Dr. Norton as an expert medical examiner. I don't think that's the capacity in which she's being tendered in this case.

Mr. Richardson: Okay.

The Witness: You mean I'm not being tendered as an expert medical investigator?

Defense Attorney: Or as an expert medical examiner. It's my understanding you've been tendered as an expert in forensic pathology.

The Witness: What do you think medical examiner is?

Defense Attorney: (Undaunted) I'm sorry, that's my objection. But you go ahead.

Mr. Richardson: Answer the question.

A. Okay. That's an interesting objection. And I've forgotten the question now.

March 17, 2005
 
December 2002 - Did They Really Say That?

From John T. Flynn of Atlanta, Ga. (Smith, Currie & Hancock), this exchange between his client "and opposing counsel in a dispute where [his] client, as the developer of a series of multi-family, residential units, had not responded to a letter from the defendants requesting payment for certain money they believed due."

Q. If you would look at Exhibit 12, please, for a second did you receive this letter on or about February 21st?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. Did you review it?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you respond to it?

A. No.

Q. Did you purposely not respond to it?

A. I did not respond to it.

Q. That was a conscious decision on your part?

A. I was conscious at the time.

Q. I don't mean whether you were awake. But did you consciously decide not to respond to it, or did you just forget?

A. No, I did not forget it.

March 16, 2005
 
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?

March 15, 2005
 
December 2002 - Did They Really Say That?

From Judge Ralph H. Walton, Jr., of Granbury, 355th Judicial District, this excerpt "from the direct examination by the prosecutor in a recent driving-while-intoxicated case in [his] court in which the elderly, hard-of-hearing 'Uncle Billy' was called to testify."

Q. Do you know Mr. Rinard?

A. Rinard?

Q. Rinard. He's your neighbor.

A. Oh, yes.

Q. you might know him as Elias.

A. No, sir, he seems like a real respectable man.

Q. Not a liar, but Elias. Do you know his first name?

A. No, I don't.

Q. You just know him as Mr. Rinard?

A. Actually, I know him as Mr. Bradshaw's brother-in-law.

Q. Fair enough.

March 14, 2005
 
July 2002 - Three From Troy

From W. Troy McKinney of Houston (Schneider & McKinney), this trio from a 1988 murder trial in Waller County.

(1) From the direct examination of the Harris County medical examiner:

Q. How long have you been the medical examiner down in Harris County?

A. Since Sept. 1, 1960.

Q. In that period of time of over almost 30 years ...

A. Thirty-two.

(2) From the cross examination of a police officer:

Q. [Paramedics] had been wandering in and out in the vicinity of where the body was located within the station, is that correct?

A. Before I got there, I don't remember what they was doing, sir.

(3) From the direct examination of a defense witness:

Q. During your lifetime, you knew [the deceased], didn't you?

A. Yes.

Q. I mean during his lifetime.

March 11, 2005
 
May 1992 - A Prepared Witness

From Stephen C. Barth of Houston (University of Houston), this excerpt from the deposition of his client, the debtor in a collection case, which was being taken by the attorney for the plaintiff bank:

Q. You in fact received the $250,000 loan from the bank?

A. Yes.

Q. And how did you spend that money?

A. Quickly!

March 10, 2005
 
February 1992 - "There's a Subtle Difference"

From Larry Warner of Harlingen, this trial excerpt:

Q. Officer, did you advise the defendant that he had the right to remain silent and not make any statements at all?

DEF. ATTY: Objection. Counsel is leading the witness.

PROSECUTOR: Your Honor, it's a yes-or-no question.

THE COURT: He may answer the question. This is for purposes of hearing on your motion?

PROSECUTOR: I'm not asking if it's true that he did this; I'm just asking if he did this.

March 09, 2005
 
January 1998 - The Arrest of Kelly the Snake

From Robert B. Gilbreath of Dallas (Vial, Hamilton, etc.) this Twilight Zone excerpt from a deposition in which, as you will see, his marvelous(!) question goes unanswered.

Q. Why did Kyron decide, if you know, to move off campus?

A. I made that decision.

Q. Why?

A. Well, because Kyron owned a snake, and they arrested the snake and -

Q. Who arrested the snake?

A. Chief Pettis, they arrested the snake.

Q. Did they search his room?

A. Yeah. See, at the time they were having a drug bust at the school or something. No, one of the drug dealers got shot. And while they were in there arresting Kelly, which is the snake, the little fellow had gotten shot in another dorm, so they were doing sweeps through the dorms, I assume, and they just happened to walk in there and there was a snake and so they arrested her. They put her in jail.

Mr. Gilbreath: Did they handcuff her?

A. They put her in jail.

Q. Did Kyron ever get her out of jail?

A. He had to go get her out of jail.

Q. Did he bail her out of jail?

A. No, She was hungry and they didn't know what to do, so he had to go get her.

Q. Is that the reason Kyron moved off campus?

A. Yeah, that's basically it.


March 08, 2005
 
January 1996 - What an Evil Person He Is

This deposition excerpt is from Charles R. McConachie of Dallas (Simpson, Woolley & McConachie). This witness (a judgment debtor) has testified that she has no stocks, bank accounts, art, or other non-exempt assets, so Charles asks about information given to him "that after the lawsuit was filed she bought two expensive dogs."

Q. One of the things we asked for somewhere here was anything about dogs. A year or so ago, did you acquire a couple of dogs?

A. I find this the most disgusting question that's ever been posed by Mr. ____. I have a blind dog and a crippled dog that I got from the shelter, and this shows the evil person he is ...

Q. Within the last two years, have you -

A. No.

Q. - picked up any more dogs?

A. No.

Q. Just the two?

A. '91. I got them because that's when my dog, ___ , that Mr. ___ threatened to kill, died.

Mr. McConachie (wisely): I'm going to object to all of this as being non-responsive.

March 07, 2005
 
May 1991 - Did I Really Say That?

From a deposition taken by Matthew M. Julius of Dallas (Adair, Morris & Julius), in a federal court case pending in Fort Worth.

Q. Ms. Russo, what is your address?

A. My home address is - oh, God, I can't remember my home address. What the heck is it? Do you believe this? I will give you that information. I can't remember my home address, I had no idea you were going to ask me that question.

Q. You didn't prepare for that one, huh?

A. No.

March 04, 2005
 
October 1985 - Write it All Down

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 did you do for Bullard?

A. I was shipping clerk. You put it all down. I worked two jobs. I worked at every club and private home in Houston. That is my business. Put it down. You don't have to ask me, I am telling you.

Q. Do you remember what time you started bartending and working private parties?

A. No. I was bartending when I first come to this country, and I have worked all over Houston, in every club in Houston, and I know everybody. Write it all down. I am telling you everything.

March 03, 2005
 
January 2005 - Did They Really Say That?

From Bruce D. Bain of Tyler (Bain, Files, Jarrett & Bain), this excerpt from his deposition of the husband in a divorce case:

Q. How would you characterize your departure from the restaurant?

A. I quit.

Q. Under what circumstances?

A. I found out he had replaced me.

March 02, 2005
 
January 2002 - Did They Really Say That?

From Judge Brent L. Burg of Houston (312th Judicial District Court), this excerpt from the “movant’s testimony in a contempt matter regarding failure to pay child support.”

Q. Okay. And that trust account he was ordered to continue to pay until when?

A. Until the maternity of my son or graduation — I think 18.

March 01, 2005
 
March 2005 - Classic Typos

From Jeffrey Poster of Arlington, this typo from a request for production:

Any and all documents...involving the sale or exchange of shads of stock.


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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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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

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