July 31, 2009
 
June 1992 - Of the Rankest Sort

From Robert Finlay of Honolulu, HI, this testimony from "a hotly contested murder trial" involving a difficult, albeit zoological, point of evidence:

Prosecutor: On the photograph, what are on the brown, blood-like smudge?

Mr. Heu: From my zoological background, I keyed in on it because it had ants on it. [This was significant because it] indicated to me that it was fresh material rather than something that was days or weeks old.

Prosecutor: First of all, is there a difference between worker ants and soldier ants?

Mr. Heu: Yes. The soldier ants have large heads and the worker ants have small heads. The worker ants go out to forage - to find something. If it's a large find, the word will go back to the ant nest. The ants will send out more workers and if it's a big find, they'll send soldiers along.

Defense Attorney: I object to the materiality of the witness' statement.

The Court: Your objection is on the grounds of relevance?

Defense Attorney: Yes, sir. It's also hearsay as to what the ants tell each other.

The Court (wisely): Objection overruled.

July 30, 2009
 
June 1996 - My Father Which Was My Grandfather

From John E. Athey of Austin, this "document" which he found in the Real Property Records of Travis County (and which had been filed July 27, 1994).

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

I JAMES PATRICK WOLF II and JAMES PATRICK SHUFF III, are One of the same person. My Father Which was my Grandfather died in 1962, and I was told that I was adopted from California. I went out there to find out who I was, and I did that. I went to federal court and had my name changed on or about June of 1965. I became James Patrick Wolf III, My Father Name was Running Wolf, My Mother Name was Morning Dove (NORA MAE SHUFF), Cherokee and Texas Indian, Chocktaw and Black Foot, and Arkansas Indian... The Great State of Texas Declared me officially Dead in 1973, as James Patrick III, Someone forged my name James P. Shuff from the State of Texas Retirement System, and drew out all my retirement, (SORRY) oops I wasn't even living here I was in Ontario, Calif. Well to make long story short I had a nervous breakdown. Divorce, after 45 years of marriage, Ms. Wolf got her maiden name back and I got the shaft. I WANT MY HOME AND GROUND BACK at LOT #2 and 3, Block "F", SECTION 11, Kennedy Ridge Estates a Subdivision in Travis County, Texas. I signed the contract for the home to be built, I put up my land as security, but I never did release it to no one to the best of my knowledge. I am taking possession of said property as of 7-5th, 1994 A.D. and I WILL SEND YOU A PAYMENT of $324 per month 'til paid in full.

James Patrick Wolf III
A Single Person

July 29, 2009
 
December 1990 - I'm Glad We Cleared That Up: Bulls & Snakes

From Farrell Bolz of Houston, these excerpts from "the deposition of [Huntly B. Farichild] an elderly landowner of Sunshine, LA, whose bull wandered through a gate and then highway fence, and was struck by my client's [truck] in the middle of an intersate highway."

Q. I need to ask you some things about what you do or do not know about how the accident happened. I'm not trying to trick you about anything.

A. I'm not worried about that.

Q. The only thing I ask you to do, is if I ask you something that you don't understand -

A. I'm going to ask.

Q. - Tell me and I'll be glad to rephrase it for you, okay?

A. You talk my language.
***

Q. Did you yourself after you knew that hole was in the fence, do anything to try to get that particular hole fixed?

A. No, because it didn't bother me. If could have stayed there...

Q. You knew the hole was there but you didn't go anything to get it fixed?

A. Well, it wasn't bothering me.
***

Q. Why is it that no one can enter your property just by crossing this ditch and going through the hole in the fence?

A. They couldn't get back in unless they go down about a 150, 200 yards of ditch down there that you can't - it will bog a snake.
***

Q. You don't have any knowledge that people were using this hole as a means of avoiding having to circle all the way back to the entrance and exit ramps?

A. No. Ain't nobody went throgh there, honey. I'm telling you it was wet, and the ditch, they didn't drive through it. Now, a four-wheeler or jeep or something would go through it, but that is what i was watching for, but didn't nobody go through it.

If it wasn't that, I would have never fixed the fence. I fixed it not because of cattle, but fixed it keep outlaws and inlaws out.

July 28, 2009
 
October 2001 - The Potted Plant Rule

From Thomas E. Quirk of San Antonio (Aaron & Quirk), this excerpt from a plaintiff's deposition in a case he is handling. Thomas adds: "We thought the client was wise to advise his lawyer properly."

Q. Then what?

A. Then I went back to school, UTSA, and finished my degree .

Q. What'd you get your degree in?

A. Kinesiology

Q. How much?

A. Kinesiology, P.E., physical education. ...It's K-i-n-e ology.

Q. Siology?

A. Yeah.

Mr. Davis: Study of muscles, yeah.

Mr. Quirk: I was about to ask him that.

Mr. Davis: I knew the answer. I had to say.

Mr. Quirk: You had to do it. You just had to jump in there. Okay. You know it's the potted plan rule. You're not supposed to say anything.

Q. Did he explain that to you?

A. What?

Q. The potted plant rule. Your lawyer can't say anything in a deposition. He can say, "Objection, form; objection, leading; objection, nonresponsive; and I'm instructing my client not to answer." And if he says anything else, he's in trouble.

Mr. Quirk: Is that right?

Mr. Davis: I don't know about anything else.

Mr. Quirk: That's it. If you read the rule, it says anything else and you waive your objection.

Q. So tell him to keep his mouth shut.

A. Keep your mouth shut.

July 27, 2009
 
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.

July 24, 2009
 
April 2001 - Classic Typos

From Danna Mayhill of Athens, this typo from a response she received to her request for disclosure in a modification of custody case:

Q. State the legal theories and in general, the factual basis of the claims or defenses of _____ Sims.

A. _____ Sims is the father of the children and would be able and willing to provide a better and more secure neutering environment for the children to be raised.

July 23, 2009
 
October 2000 - The Nothing Man

From Lyle H. Jeanes, II of Dallas (Paul B. Van Ness Associates), this excerpt from the plaintiff's deposition in a personal injury car accident case. The plaintiff's counsel was Earl Drott of Tyler. Dennis Black of Tyler (Ramey & Flock) is asking the questions, starting with:

Q. What was your job?

A. I didn't have one.

Q. What did you do then?

A. Nothing.

Q. You did nothing?

A. I did nothing.

Q. Well, let me ask you this. You went to work and you did nothing. Is that what you're telling me?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Okay. Who was your supervisor when you were doing nothing?

A. Dwayne Washington

Mr. Drott: How did he know if you were doing a good job?

The Witness: That's the hardest part about doing that job. You never know when you're finished.

Q. (By Mr. Black) How did you spend your time at work when you were out there?

A. Listened to the radio, talked to a couple of friends that helped me.

Q. Helped you do what?

A. Nothing ...

July 22, 2009
 
June 2000 - The Word on the Street

From District Judge Robert P. Brotherton of Wichita Falls (30th District Court), this rather contentious "debate" during a deposition in a suit involving several defendants. Judge Brotherton adds: "In true Jack Webb fashion, the names have been changed to protect the innocent."

Q. Since you don't know the content of your own agreement with them about whether you indemnify or not, ... do you know any reason why you should not have them in this lawsuit?

DEPONENT'S ATTORNEY ("Mr. Jones"): Don't answer that. That's not a question. Is there any reason why they should be in this lawsuit?

QUESTIONING ATTORNEY ("Mr. Smith"): Sure it's a question.

Mr. Jones: Hell, you sued the Pope one time. You sue anybody.
Mr. Smith: That's not - sidebar. I collected over $2 million worth, too. So, counsel ... did you ever do that?

Mr. Jones: Yeah, I have.

Mr. Smith: Good for you.

THIRD ATTORNEY ("Mr. White"): I'm going to object to both counsel. Proceed, please.

Mr. Smith: I agree and withdraw those statements.

Mr. Jones: Why? You don't want the jury to know you sued the Pope?

Mr. Smith: I didn't sue the Pope. In the first place, that's a lie. I didn't sue the Pope and I resent you saying that we sued the Pope.

Mr. Jones: Well, that's what the word on the street is, you sued the Pope. That's all I know.

Mr. Smith: Well, the word on the street is not always true, you know.

July 21, 2009
 
May 1999 - Did They Really Say That?

From Jane Portis Davis of Texarkana (Jane is the legal assistant for J. David Crisp of Crisp, Jordan & Boyle), this excerpt from the deposition of an examining physician in an asbestosis case who gave this explanation of the plaintiff's shortness of breath:

"... putting on his pants when they are little tight will make him short of breath."

July 20, 2009
 
June 1998 - May I Approach the Witness?

From Judge Scott Wisch of Fort Worth (372nd District Court), this excerpt from one of his criminal trials.

Mr Platt: May I approach the witness, Judge?

The Defendant: Yeah.

The Court: Do you have a middle name that I don't know about?

The Defendant: No. Why?

The Court: He said, "May I approach the witness, Judge?"

The Defendant: Oh.

The Court: Mr. Platt, you have both our permissions to approach the witness.

Mr. Platt: Thank you, Judge.

July 17, 2009
 
October 1997 - Do You Speak English?

From John Phillip Mustachio of Houston, this excerpt from the trial testimony of "the plaintiff, whose first language is Greek."

Q. What I'm trying to do, Mr. Emmanouil, is to show that you have quite a bit of experience in owning and operating real estate, do you not?

A. No. The only one experience I have is just to - to know how is the valuable of the land is going to go up or down. That's I'm good only. But legal phrase like this one, I'm zero. Like I said earlier, I have a gift know when is good piece of land or not. The rest of this stuff, it's English to me.

July 16, 2009
 
December 1996 - Them Hoes

From William A. Bratton, III of Dallas, this excerpt from the examination of a government witness in a criminal case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Webster is questioning the witness about some tape-recorded conversations she had with the defendant:

Q. Ms. Spinks, in reference in the course of this transcript to them Hoes, in the course of that - context of that conversation, who is them Hoes refer to? Do you recall?

A. Them hoes?

Q. Yes. Do you remember reading that, hearing that portion of this conversation?

A. There is a lot of that in there, but which part are you specific talking about?

A. Let me find it for you. Very top of page of 54 where [the defendant] says, "I don't want that bitch to keep saying my name to them hoes?

A. Hoes, FBI.

July 15, 2009
 
June 1996 - Those Experts

From D'Juanna Parks of Beaumont/Port Arthur (Provost & Umphrey), this excerpt from the deposition of the treating physician of her client, the defendant.

Q. But just based on your knowledge as a physician, some patients you would expect would not have back or neck injuries?

A. Sure.

Q. Okay. And I presume that in your years of practice you have treated a number of patients who are fairly significant collisions, but did not result in a back or neck injury?

A. Have I ever seen the patients?

Q. Yes.

A. No, because if they don't have any injury, they don't come to me.

July 14, 2009
 
October 1995 - Well, How Did The Accident Happen?

Q. How on earth did you come to get so completely intoxicated?

A. I got in bad company. You see, there were four of us. I had a bottle of whiskey and the other three don't touch the stuff.

July 13, 2009
 
September 1994 - Classic Typos

(1) From a full-page ad by a personal injury/products liability, etc. law firm in the Albuquerque, NM yellow pages:

INSURED? We Can Help You. PROVEN RESULTS! 24 Hr. Service. Free Consultation. No Fee Until Successful (Costs May Be Additional). REPRESENTING THE SERIOUSLY INSURED.

(2) From a typed letter written on behalf of a bank fraud defendant that I was sentencing:

Dear JUdge Buchmeyer, Nancy and I have known [the defendant] all of our lives. He is a flean cut, very smart young man...."

(3) From a handwritten letter from a prisoner held for trial in McAlester, OK who wanted to get back in federal court so I could sentence him on both cases:

"I've been advised I have a right to a speedy hearing on the matter before your court and by this letter I am asking to exorcise that right...."

July 10, 2009
 
May 1994 - Did They Really Say That?

From James R. Sutterfield of New Orleans (Hoffman, Sutterfield, etc.), this excerpt from the deposition of the plaintiff in a maritime personal injury case. Jim sets the stage by explaining: "We have all counseled our clients to tell the truth; we all know that criminal convictions are much more damaging when they are lied about first; and we have all been mistaken in what we thought we were told. All of these came together, to the chagrin of the plaintiff's counsel, who should remain nameless."

Q. When you were at Rouse's, did you ever injure yourself?

A. No, sir. [pause] I forgot to tell about the armed robbery.

Q. Where were you arrested for armed robbery?

A. I wasn't arrested for it. I done it before. I wasn't arrested.

Plaintiff's Attorney: You weren't arrested?

A. No.

Def. Attorney: Were you ever convicted of armed robbery?

A. No.

July 09, 2009
 
September 2001 - Case Continued

From District Judge Burt Carnes of Georgetown (368th Judicial District) this marvelous (!) "announcement of ready" that came from Ms. Sara Naylor at a Monday docket call - after "a particularly violent thunderstorm had rolled through the area."

The Court: 01-070, Jorge Elliott Rodriguez.

Ms. Naylor: I'm here, Judge. If Mr. Gattis wants to try a case against me when on Friday my air conditioner went out, and now we don't have any electricity, my neighbor's tree is in my yard, and I spent the weekend with my mother-in-law...if he wants to try a case with me, I'm ready.

July 08, 2009
 
June 2000 - Did They Really Say That?

From William S. Hommel, Jr. of Tyler (McGee, Hommel & Starr), this excerpt from his deposition of the plaintiff in a personal injury case.

Q. Do you have any idea what your condition is? ... I mean, some people say, "Well, I got a herniated disk in my back." Some people say, "Well, I just got a chronic problem." You know, the doctor has never said to you something that you could tell a friend as to what was wrong with you?

A. Like I said, he didn't take any x-rays of my neck and shoulder, but he has mentioned that, I don't know what it's called underneath my shoulder blade, but there seems to be some damage there and ... however they say it. Theatrical part of my neck. There might be some damage there.

July 07, 2009
 
October 2000 - Did They Really Say That?

From Thomas B. Alleman of Dallas (Winstead, Sechrest & Minick), this entry he found scribbled in the nurse's notes concerning a patient:

3/28/98 - Spoke with wife who said, "He just bit me on the hand, fortunately he didn't have any teeth in." Wife will attempt to feed patient lunch.

July 06, 2009
 
October 1998 - Verbal Typo's

From H. Deloyd Bailey of Provo, Utah - who is licensed to practice in Texas - this lawyer exchange which took place in his deposition of the doctor in a medical malpractice case.

Mr. Mautz: All counsel here today are just, you know, we're really put out at the time you've taken over each one of those words. So, you can go ahead and ask him questions about -

Mr. Bailey: I'm put out with what your client did to my client.

Mr. Mautz: I move to strike that and if you engage in anymore of this hyperverbally, then this deposition is over.

July 02, 2009
 
December 1997 - Did They Really Say That?

From Louis Scofield, Jr. of Beaumont (Mehaffy & Weber), this excerpt from the trial of a personal injury case "against a local establishment where they serve drinks and people dance."

Q. Was there anyone else sitting at your table?

A. Yes, sir. There was about eight couples there that night.

Q. Did you have a date that night?

A. No, sir. I had my wife with me.

July 01, 2009
 
October 1997 - Do You Speak English?

From Gerald T. Culver of Houston (Gerald is a certified fraud examiner, Special Crimes Bureau of the Harris County District Attorney's office), this marvelous (!!) excerpt from a motion for new trial hearing in a criminal case:

Q. Did all of them speak English or did some of them speak Spanish or what was happening?

A. Spanish and English.

Q. Okay. At the same time people were speaking Spanish and English?

A. Yes.

Q. And were they crying Spanish and English?

A. Well, crying.


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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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