May 31, 2005
June 2003 - How Do You Define Drunk?
From Judge Buddie J. Hahn, Texas Bar Journal, Vol. 50, No. 11 — December 1987.
Q. On the day that Twine was shot, were you intoxicated?
A. I definitely was not.
Q. Had you been drinking that day?
A. I drank a few beers.
Q. How many beers did you drink?
A. About thirty (30).
Q. And you were not drunk?
Q. What is your definition of drunk?
A. Drunk is when you fall down and you can’t get up.
May 27, 2005
April 1985 - Some Kinda Guy
From Judge Stephen B. Ables of Kerrville (216th District Court), this excerpt from an arraignment held in June 1989. The defendant, who was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, asked for an appointed attorney — and Judge Ables began the "routine" inquiry concerning the indigent status of the defendant.
Q. (By the Court) Mr. Jones, how long have you been in custody?
A. A month and a half.
Q. What did you do before you were incarcerated?
A. I manufactured methamphetamine.
[At this point the district attorney almost incurred a hernia trying to suppress a guffaw.]
Q. You did what?
A. I cooked at McDonald's.
COURT: Thank you Mr. Jones. [Aside to the court reporter] You didn't miss any of that did you?
COURT REPORTER: Absolutely not.
May 26, 2005
October 1991 - Summer Clerking
Finally! The first et cetera contributions from summer clerks from McCleod, Alexander, Powel & Apffel of Galveston (and Houston).
First, from Jennifer E. Patton, excerpts from a deposition in a real estate dispute - with Jennifer's explanation that the plaintiff's attorney is deposing the owner of some adjoining property (a doctor); that the defense attorney "had been objecting 'almost continuously;'" and that, after this went on "for quite some time" the good doctor" decided to strike back:"
Def. Attorney: I object to the responsiveness of that answer.
The Witness: Am I qualified to state my name?
Def. Attorney: You certainly are qualified to state your name, and I didn't object to that part of your testimony.
The Witness: I'm surprised.
Next, from Kelly P. Forester, a student at South Texas College of Law. This excerpt from the testimony of "An immigrant who was giving his deposition through a translator" - With Kelly's astute observation that "obviously there was a breakdown in communication:"
Q. What doctor did you see next?
Q. What did Dr. Babu do for you?
A. He already wanted to operate. He wanted to take my heart out.
Q. I don't have to ask why you didn't go back to him.
May 25, 2005
April 1997 - Did They Really Say That?
From Robert F. Redmond, Jr. of Richmond, Va. (McGuire, Woods, etc.), who is a member of the State Bar of Texas, this excerpt from his deposition of a personal injury plaintiff "who claimed soft tissue neck and back injuries subsequent to a very minor rear end impact."
Q. What's the longest you have been able to sit and read in the past year without pain?
A. An hour.
Q. After an hour, no matter whether you have a flare-up or not, you suffer pain; is that correct?
Q. Well, what happens after an hour if you're not having a flare-up?
A. I usually don't read that long.
May 24, 2005
December 2001 - Did They Really Say That?
From District Judge Bob McCoy of Fort Worth (48th Judicial District of Texas), this exchange which recently took place in his court:
Presiding juror to bailiff: Do we answer the questions and then deliberate, or deliberate and then answer the questions?
May 23, 2005
July 2001 - Expert Opinions
From Judge Jay Patterson of Dallas (101st District Court), these excerpts from the testimony of an expert psychologist in a recent case that settled just before the verdict was read.
Assisting The Trier of Fact: "The psychologist remembered that the plaintiff's father had 'significant conflict with a sibling of the plaintiff.' I would say he was right. The father shot and killed the sibling."
Mastering the Obvious: :The psychologist also assisted the trier of fact by stating, 'Those things that are obvious from simple observation are those things that are obvious.'"
May 20, 2005
June 2001 - Nobody Nose the Trouble I've Seen
From Margery Huston of Corpus Christi (Baker, Leon, Fancher & Matthys), this excerpt from the deposition of the Plaintiff in a legal malpractice case.
Q. I noticed you're wearing something over your nose. What is that?
A. Oh, this is a prosthesis nose. (Witness removes prosthesis) Margery adds: "If this were not enough, the same attorney ... subsequently took the deposition" of the nephew of the man with the prosthesis nose - and "continued in the same vein":
Q. And your uncle is in his seventies?
A. He's about 70.
Q. Is he the one that doesn't have a nose?
Q. We took his deposition .... Does he take that nose off in front of you ... like he did for us?
A. No. He left it in the shower one time, though. Knocking (and yelling), "Hey, I forgot my nose."
May 19, 2005
May 2005 - Doing the Hokey Pokey
T. Bradley Cates of Waco contributed this excerpt from a recent bench trial in the 74th District Court, where Judge Alan Mayfield was presiding over a child custody case. Bradley’s client was “the mother of twin girls, Fayth and Hope, and he was questioning her father-in-law regarding the girls.”
Q. Describe the girls for us. What are Fayth and Hope like?
A. Fayth is really more of the out-going type. And whenever there’s a new toy to be explored, it’s normally Fayth that will go there first and Hope will follow and, you know, and want to join in. But Hope, in contrast, though, once — once she gets there, Hope’s more likely really to savor the moment; and while Fayth may bring the book to you, and ask you, you know, or open it up — and we have got a book that’s got the Hokey Pokey song. And it’s rare that Fayth, actually, makes it all the way to the end with us. But, you know, Hope will come along and, you know, we will enjoy the book to the end, until we have got our whole selves in doing the Hokey Pokey.
Q. Do you do the Hokey Pokey with her?
A. I have done the Hokey Pokey, yes.
The Court: That's what it's all about.
May 18, 2005
November 2003 - Out of the Mouths of Babes
This contribution is from John K. Grubb of Houston:
Many years ago, when my son William was in kindergarten, I had him sitting in the back of the courtroom while I was handling a procedural matter before the court. As soon as I finished my matter, the judge stood up and said, “Let’s take a recess.”
I walked to the back of the courtroom and said, “Let’s go, son.” My son stood up and said, “Dad, the judge is taking a recess — where is the playground around here?”
May 17, 2005
January 2005 - Did They Really Say That?
From Judge Ralph H. Walton, Jr. of Granbury (355th Judicial District), this letter from an inmate requesting an early release from prison - which "offers one of the most unique requests that I have seen":
I get out on June 17, 2005. Judge, sir, I am asking for no other reason but to go fishing for 17 days. So can I get out on the last day of May, rather than June 17?
Judge Walton notes that the inmate "appears to have his priorities straight."
May 16, 2005
January 2005 - Lapsus Linguae*
District Judge Martin B. McGee of Concord, N.C. has started writing a humor column for the North Carolina Bar Journal. These are a few from his collection:
The Precise Age of the Minor Child
From Randell Hastings, Concord, N.C. In a contested custody action opposing counsel asked Mr. Hasting's client the following question regarding the minor child:
Counsel: How old was the child when he was born?
Randell admits to asking in another proceeding: "How fast was your car going when it stopped?"
Location, Location, Location
From Judge Michael G. Knox, Concord, N.C. A defendant, seeking court appointed counsel for DWI charge, was having an unusually difficult time completing the necessary affidavit. Judge Knox, in an attempt to ascertain the lucidity of the defendant, engaged in the following exchange:
Judge: Sir, do you know where you are?
Defendant: Between a rock and a hard place ...
Judge: Has he [the defendant] been exercising visitation?
Plaintiff: Yes, sir.
Judge: He has. So, you are just asking that the conditions remain the same?
Plaintiff: Yes, sir. But he's dropping them off early saying that it [the order] is not accurate - that no judge in their right mind would order something like that.
Judge: [Laughter] Well, OK.
Plaintiff's Counsel: Judge, we realize these are the hours that we outlined and that it is not whether or not you are in your right mind, your Honor. We are not contesting that issue today.
Judge: [laughter] Thank you.
*This is the Latin term for a misstatement or slip of the tongue. See the following cases: State v. Terrell, COA03-89, 586 S.E.2nd 806 (10-21-2003): "It is the general rule that a misstatement by the court, termed lapsus linguae, will not be held prejudicial if not called to the attention of the court and if it does not appear that the jury could have been misled by the statement,"; State v. Mason, COA02-1115, 583 S.E. 2nd 410 (8-5-2003): "During oral argument, his attorney committed a lapsus linguae - a slip of the tongue - by asking the jury to find him guilty."
May 13, 2005
February 2005 - Laughter in the Courtroom
This contribution, from Robert B. Gilbreath of Dallas (Jenkens & Gilchrest), is from a case involving allegations that the defendant supplied a defective roof. The trial judge was Merrill Hartman, and the excerpt is from the motion for directed verdict made by the defendant's attorneys, Michael L. Knapek and Tania Hepfner of Dallas (Jackson Walker):
With respect to the conditions precedent, Your Honor, the warranties clearly require Medical City to provide 30 days' notice, written or otherwise, 30 days' notice to - to Carlisle after the discovery of a leak or after the discovery of - of what they content to be premature weathering of the membrane. That clearly was not done here.
The Court: I think that's what I've got.
Mr. Knapek: I'm sorry?
The Court: I think that's what I've got?
Mr. Knapek: Premature weathering of the membrane.
(Laughter in the courtroom)
May 12, 2005
November 2003 - That’s One For Buchmeyer
From Anton Paul Hajek, III of San Antonio (Aaron & Quirk), this excerpt from his deposition in a slip-and-fall case that was taken by Carmine Giardino.
Q. Where were you born?
A. In a base hospital in England. Actually it was Burtonwood (phonetic) Air Force Base, Manchester, England.
Q. Were your parents living in England at the time that you were born there?
A. Yep, especially my mother.
MR. GIARDINO: That’s one for Jerry Buchmeyer.
May 11, 2005
November 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?
John Cline also weighs in on the other side of the "Deposition v. Trials" question with this deposition excerpt - which, John says, confirms his long-held "precept that a good court reporter, like good children, should be seen and not heard."
Q. Where was the Deep Creek Saloon located or where is it located?
A. It's on - it's right off 25th and Avenue T.
The Reporter: Avenue U.
The Witness: Avenue U.
Mr. Simpson: Let the record reflect that the court reporter knew where it was.
Mr. Longacre: Off the record.
May 10, 2005
June 1991 - Did I Really Hear That?
From Judge Joseph Hart of Austin (136th District Court), this marvelous exchange from a recent hearing before him.
Q. How many clients did she have when she was operating the home care facility?
Q. She only had one. That's the only one she ever had?
Q. What happened to this man that she was taking care of?
A. He's deceased now.
Q. Was he taken out of the home when he had to go to the hospital - he had to be admitted to the hospital?
Q. And he died and he didn't come back?
May 09, 2005
October 1998 - Did They Really Ask That?
From Larry Warner of Brownsville:
Q. Do you have any other bills or debts or credit card payments?
A. I don't have any credit cards.
Q. Are you currently in bankruptcy?
Q. What was that for?
The Court: Not having enough money to pay your bills basically.
May 06, 2005
October 1998 - Did They Really Ask That?
From Byron K. Barclay of Houston (Phillips & Akers):
Q. Did you make any inquiry with the man who was killed at all about the nature of the accident or why it occurred?
Mr. Barclay (wisely): I object that that would be impossible to do.
A. It is impossible.
A. Because he's the person you said is not alive.
May 05, 2005
February 1997 - Can't You Be More Specific?
From Robert Fugate of Mansfield, these rather precise answers given in the deposition of a toxic tort plaintiff:
Q. Do you use window cleaner?
Q. Do you ever use Windex?
A. Have I ever?
Q. Do you ever?
A. Oh, no.
Q. How many times have you used it in your life?
May 04, 2005
January 1995 - Did He Really Ask That?
From Mark R. Kolitz of Dallas (Liechty, McGinnis & Kolitz), this question from a recent set of interrogatories served on Mark by a "rather respected personal injury defense attorney" who shall, of course, Remain Nameless.
Q. Please state the content of any conversations between you and the vehicle operated by David Gonzalez at the scene of the accident made the basis of this lawsuit.
May 03, 2005
January 1995 - Did He Really Say That?
From Milton G. Shuffield of Beaumont (Bernsen, Jamail, etc.), this excerpt from "the deposition of a risk manager for [his] client," being taken by the plaintiff's attorney in a slip and fall case:
Q. What did Ms. Broadway tell you at the scene of the accident?
A. She kept telling me her head was hurting.
A. And I asked her if she hurt anyplace else and she just kept saying her head was hurting.
Q. I'm not asking you this in a medical term. This is as layman as possible. In your opinion, when you arrived at the scene, was she still laying down?
A. Yes, she was. That's not a medical question. You're right. That's a nonmedical question.
May 02, 2005
Senior U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer's sense of humor extends to his own courtoom. Check out the "requirements" for attorneys practicing before him (particularly the footnotes).
Thanks to all our loyal "Say What" readers. Judge Buchmeyer accepts contributions from attorneys across the country. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 2002 - The Effective Date
From Ann E. Ward of Plano (Ann is the general counsel of Questcare Medical Services), this email message she received from Joseph Truhe, Corporate Counsel, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
I just came across a document roaming through some old files that predates the listserve (and the golden ferret competition) that the group might get a chuckle out of.
I reviewed a contract for an international venture that must have suffered in translation. It was forwarded for review by our V.P. of strategic operations. I made an overhead of one provision and presented it to our leadership council at the end of an unrelated presentation as proof of how carefully we review contracts and as showing that it wasn’t just the doctors that save lives. Buried in the definitions section was:
3. (a) “Effective Date” This contract shall be effective on the date it is signed by the parties to be executed.