May 31, 2006
 
October 1991 - Summer Clerking

Finally! The first et cetera contributions from summer clerks from McCleod, Alexander, Powel & Apffel of Galveston (and Houston).

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.

Q. Doctor...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.

May 30, 2006
 
July 1989 - How Much Did You Have to Drink?

Defendant: (Charged with drunk driving) Your Honor, I only had one for the road.

Judge: How many did you have for the ditch?
___

Judge: You are charged with habitual drunkenness. Have you anything to say in your defense?

Defendant: Habitual Thirstiness?

May 26, 2006
 
January 2000 - Did They Really Say That?

From W. Marc McDonald of Fort Worth (Bourland, Smith, etc.), this "classically confused" statement made by one of his partners, William R. Korlo, Jr. during a recent deposition.

Mr. Korlo: All right. Let me turn your attention to Plaintiff's Exhibit No. 3. I'm sorry. For purposes of the record, I've been messing up. I keep saying Plaintiff's Exhibits and I'm actually Defendant's.

So let the record reflect that I don't know who I represent.

May 25, 2006
 

January 1990 - Let's Be Particularly Careful

From Robert F. Alexander of Houston, this testimony from a cocaine possession trial before a jury and Judge Miron Love (177th District Court, Harris County). The cocaine was allegedly found by the jail officer/witness during a "routine inventory search"; on cross, Robert is trying to establish that this "client was quite sober during his search."

Q. So my question once again is, with regard to whether or not he had been drinking, do you have an opinion as to whether he was heavily intoxicated, mildly intoxicated or stone sober?

A. I do not have an opinion on that, sir.

Q. Do you think if he had been falling down drunk, you would have noticed?

A. I'm sure I would have.

Q. And do you think if he had a strong odor of alcohol about his breath, you would have noticed?

A. No. I can't smell.

Q. (With Disbelief) You can't smell?

A. No, sir.

Q. No kidding?

A. No kidding. [Pause — then question from defense counsel, now with genuine concern and empathy.]

Q. Is that for like all the time?A. Well, it has to be a very, very, very strong odor for me to be able to smell.

Q. I'm sorry to hear that.

A. Working in the jail, sometimes it's an advantage.


May 24, 2006
 
February 2002 - Classic Typo's

From Trish Nasworthy of Grand Prairie (Trish is an Assistant City Attorney), this mistake she spotted in an ad in the Dallas Morning News.

LITITAGATION ATTORNEY needed immediately. Large plaintiff's personal injury firm seeks associate. Duties include depositions, medication, and trials ...

May 23, 2006
 
February 1994 - The Criminal Stuff

From Ron Goranson of Dallas (Milner, Goranson, etc.), this trial excerpt from the cross-examination of an IRS undercover agent by Dallas lawyer G. Thomas Rhodus.

Q. Now, will you agree with me that there are certainly areas where the tax laws are complex?

A. Certainly.

Q. Okay. And technical?

A. Certainly.

Q. Okay. Would you agree with me that there are areas where the tax laws don't necessarily comport with what a person's common sense might tell him?

A. Congress wrote the tax laws.

The Court: Ours is not to reason why.

Mr. Rhodus: Very good. Thank you. But - let's not send this transcript to Washington. Okay?

May 22, 2006
 
December 1993 - Did He Really Say That?

From Leslie R. Weatherhead of Spokane, WA (Witherspoon, Kelley, etc.), this "gem from a Secret Service 'Q and A' of a guy who designed an impressive scheme to defraud banks through the use of phony checks to fictitious payees such as 'Robin Banks' and 'E. Z. Mooney'."

Q. You were the planner of everything? From the very beginning? I mean from the beginning when you went into the bank fraud business?

A. Ah....

Q. Take it city by city, might make it easier.

A. There was other people, like I say, in the beginning that was involved. When the bank fraud started and it was brought to my attention, I said that's wrong. From then on, I guess I become the ring leader.

Q. You said it was wrong, but yet, even though it was wrong...

A. It was wrong the way they was doing it.

Q. Oh, they weren't doing it correctly. OK.

May 19, 2006
 
May 1993 - Did He Really Say That?

From George M. Walker of Mobile, AL (Hand, Arendall, etc.), this excerpt from "one of the first depositions [he] ever attended" - of a "retired insulator from a local shipbuilding company in an asbestos case" (so there were, "as usual, 25 defense lawyers around a conference room table peppering [the witness] with questions:"

Q. What was your father's name?

A. I don't know, we always called him "Dad."

May 18, 2006
 
January 1990 - Did I Really Say That?

Judge Robert Lee Eschenburg, II of Floresville (218th District Court) notes that "you rarely write about a judge's goof" — and contributes one of his own:

I have just finished a criminal trial. During the final argument by one of the attorneys, the other attorney raised an objection. I quickly responded "overstained." Just let the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio reverse me on that!

May 17, 2006
 
March 1993 - Prayers and the Lord

From Vicki A. Lorenzen of Amarillo (a legal assistant with Hoffman, Sheffield & Sauseda), this excerpt from a deposition taken by an attorney with the Underwood, Wilson, etc. firm.

Q. Okay. Do you know of any expert witnesses that you intend to call at time of trial? Do you know what an expert witness is?

A. I don't know just who.

Q. Okay. Well, we will ask your daughter.

A. I've got the lord.

Q. Okay. That's fair.

May 16, 2006
 
May 1992 - Truth and/or Veracity

From U.S. District Judge Lucius D. Bunton of Midland (Chief Judge of the entire Western District of Texas), this "character testimony" from a "crack cocaine" case that Lucius tried. After one of the five co-defendants testified, he was followed by a "character witness":

Q. Are you familiar with the defendant's reputation in his community (Ft. Worth) for truth and veracity?

A. I guess that I am ...

Q. Just answer "yes" or "no."

A. Well, yes.

Q. Okay. Is his reputation good or bad?

A. It's about medium - sometimes he tells the truth and sometimes he don't.

May 15, 2006
 
April 2006 - DOT-DOT-DOT, DASH-DASH-DASH

The Feb. 12, 2006, edition of The New York Times reported on the end of an era in a marvelous story about Western Union’s decision to stop sending telegrams — because of declining business due to email and other technologies. From a high of more than 200 million telegrams in 1929, the number had dwindled to 21,000 in 2005.

Fortunately, the story recalled some of the “famous, infamous, and apocryphal dispatches” compiled from several sources, including Telegram! a book by Linda Rosenkrantz:

“In 1933, Western Union introduced the singing telegram — which became the source of this famously macabre joke: A woman, finding a Western Union messenger at the door, exclaims:

‘Great, I’ve always wanted a singing telegram.’ But no, she’s told, it’s just a regular telegram. The woman pleads — so the messenger relents and finally sings:
‘Dum De Dum Dum. Your Sister Rose is Dead.’”

“Writers, of course, say the cleverest things. The humorist Robert Benchley, arriving in Venice for the first time, cabled Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker:
‘STREETS FULL OF WATER! PLEASE ADVISE.’”

“Telegrams also corrected mistakes. When Mark Twain heard that his obituary had been published, he cabled from London in 1897:
‘THE REPORTS OF MY DEATH ARE GREATLY EXAGGERATED.’”

“Western Union charged by the word, turning the loquacious terse, and sometimes ambiguous. A reporter cabled Cary Grant:
‘HOW OLD CARY GRANT?’
“The actor supposedly replied: ‘OLD CARY GRANT FINE. HOW YOU?’”

“Both Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle supposedly sent similar telegrams to a dozen prominent men, all of whom picked up and left town immediately: ‘FLEE AT ONCE — ALL IS DISCOVERED.’”

“John F. Kennedy used to joke during his 1960 presidential campaign that he had just received a telegram from his father:
‘DEAR JACK: DON’T BUY ONE MORE VOTE THAN NECESSARY. I’LL BE DAMNED IF I PAY FOR A LANDSLIDE.’”

May 12, 2006
 
October 1990 - Yogi Berra Meets Groucho Marx

This deposition excerpt comes from Terry L. Jacobson of Corsicana (Dawson & Sodd), who correctly observes that the attorney taking the deposition "was apparently inhabited by the ghost of Yogi Berra" - because "clearly, if Yogi had entered the practice of law, this is how he would have asked questions."

Q. Now, during these first two minutes that [the plaintiff] was able to walk without any discomfort ... he was walking at what speed?

A. 1.7 miles per hour.

Q. If a person casually walks into a courtroom, or walks into an office such as this one, is he roughly walking at 1.7 miles per hour?

[After objection.]

A. Depends on which person is walking in the courtroom, I guess.

Q. Let me rephrase the question, doctor. What I'm trying to get at is can you describe for this jury, in whatever means that you can best describe it, how fast a person is walking at 1.7 miles per hour.

A. They're - ordinarily they'd be walking at - ordinarily just walking down the sidewalk, you know. Casual implies a little bit less to me. It certainly is not a brisk walk.

Q. Could you walk it in this room for us?

A. I could.

Q. Would you mind doing that?
ATTORNEY: You think you could pick it up?
WITNESS: Uh-huh.

Q. Why don't you start over here. Start here at the wall and walk over to the other side when everyone is ready. Are the video people ready?

[WITNESS COMPLIES.]

Q. Thank you doctor. That's your best estimate, isn't it, doctor?

Terry continues: "The collective legal minds assembled at the deposition were so stunned at this wonderful 'straight line' that we could think of no objection to make the question (object to the form of the question because it recites facts which are self evident or which are true under all circumstances?). You should also note that the doctor answered the question. This fact supports two alternative hypothesis; specifically, that (1) lawyers are smarter than doctors, or (2) that doctors are smarter than lawyers. The court reporter declined to record the snide, witty and clever comments (remember, we could not think of any objections) made by the assembled lawyers after the question was asked. This of course proves the one thing we all know; specifically, that court reporters are smarter than lawyers and doctors.

May 11, 2006
 
January 1999 - Now Is My Attorney

From Angus McGinty of San Antonio (Angus is an assistant criminal district attorney), this excerpt from a probation revocation hearing before Judge Peter Michael Curry (227th District Court).

The Court: This is 97-CR-2666, State of Texas v. Albert Alarcon. Your name is Albert Alarcon?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

The Court: You are here with your attorney Ms. Sharon Thorn; is that correct?

The Defendant: Now is my attorney, yes, sir.

The Court: Pardon?

The Defendant: Now is my attorney.

The Court: Yes, You don't mind having her (Ms. Thorn) as your attorney?

The Defendant: No, sir.

The Court: She's a nice person. She'll probably help you more than anybody else except the Lord; he's not here right now, at least not visible.

Mr. McGinty: He's in jail. That's where everybody finds him.

The Court: That's true.

May 10, 2006
 
February 1998- The Court Reporter's Nightmare

From David Bingham of Dallas (David is a freelance court reporter), this excerpt from a recent deposition:

Q. Let me explain something. You have to let me finish my questions.

A. Oh, sorry. Yes. Yes.

Q. Because if we both talk -

A. Right.

Q. - at the same time -

A. Oh, that's right.

Q. - it creates a problem.

A. Oh, yeah.

May 09, 2006
 
March 1997 - But There's Nothing Wrong With Me!

From Stephen H. Suttle of Abilene (McMahon, Surovik, Suttle, etc.), this excerpt from a hearing in which the witness - "an adult son who was receiving monthly disability benefits for paranoid schizophrenia" - had filed an application "to be appointed successor guardian of his incapacitated, elderly mother and her substantial estate."

Q. Were you diagnosed as a paranoid in 1988?

A. Well see, I have never claimed to be paranoid .... What I claimed, though, was that it made me nervous to be watched.

May 08, 2006
 
February 1997 - Lord Have Mercy!

From Judge Joe M. Leonard of Greenville (196th District Court), this selection from the voir dire in a wrongful arrest civil trial before him:

Mr. Thomas: At what point do you - would it be - I mean, how serious would it have to get for someone falsely accusing you before you thought that - I'm going to have to do something to have them responsible for that?

The Juror: Well, I don't know, I'd just have to reach that point.

Mr. Thomas: I'll know when I get there, sort of?

The Juror: Yeah. You know, I - I understand that - that - you know you can't just walk out of a store with something. But if I, you know - of course I've had daughters that's done that, you know, that's walked out of a store with some stuff and you know, they tell me they didn't know it. You know, I don't particularly believe that, but I know that it could happen. You know, man alive, I've been in that Wal-Mart store. Well, my God there's so much stuff around there something's liable to fall off and get in your pocket. Lord have mercy.

May 05, 2006
 
January 2004 - That's Good Advice!

This contribution, from Carl Pipoly and Melissa Brantner of San Antonio, is from a personal injury trial where the defense counsel violated a motion in limine by injecting the workers' compensation case into the trial. The subrogation attorney then asked the court for advice on how to handle future violations.

Mr. McLin: Your Honor, for future reference, this is going to be an issue that will be brought up again. How would you like me to handle objections?

The Court: Just ask me to put her in jail.

Mr. McLin: Okay. Thank you, Your Honor.

May 04, 2006
 
June 1994 - Doing Pro Se

From R. K. Miller of Lubbock (assistant senior field attorney in the Texas Attorney General Child Support Litigation Division), this excerpt from a pro se answer by the alleged father in a paternity suit (who was later "excluded by genetic testing"):

Further, if [defendant] is determined to be the biological father, this is news to him and therefore, he has been denied the usual and customary visitation rights pursuant to the Texas Family Code. Therefore, the Doctrine of Latches to his situation and the court should enter and order denying reimbursement on that legal theory.

May 03, 2006
 
April 2006 - Classic Typos

From Judge Ken Wise of Houston (152nd District Court) this paragraph from a motion for continuance:

“Additionally, counsel for Defendant has recently been appointed and requires additional time to become familiar with the case to prepare for medication and/or trial, if necessary.”

May 02, 2006
 
May 1990 - The Cindy Singleton Collection

From Cindy Singleton this excerpt after cleaning out her desk during her last week at the Tarrant County D.A.'s office.

Judge: Is the defendant known by any other name?

Defense: Do you have an a.k.a?

Defendant: Hell Lady, I don't even have a car!

May 01, 2006
 
March 1987 - At The Harris County Courthouse

Judge Frank Price, asking a defendant whether anyone had promised him an easy sentence in exchange for pleading guilty:

Q. Has anyone led you to believe the governor will pardon you if you plead guilty?

A. Well, I haven't been home judge, but he might have called my mother.


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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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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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