The Judge’s Daughter: BBQ Law
By Pamela Buchmeyer
Summer is for picnics, swimming, and sleepover camps—for adults. It’s a trend now, summer camp for grown-ups. Even the Wall Street Journal recently reported glowingly about a crystalline lake edged with pine trees in Maine, where the Migis Lodge, founded in 1916, offers upscale carefree camping for fully mature guests.
And why should pint-size humans have a monopoly on roasting marshmallows, paddling canoes, and playing capture the flag? Forget depositions, pretrial conferences, and contract disputes—attorneys need long sunny days filled with kayaking, nature hikes, and make-your-own ice cream sundaes. Lawyers and other responsible parties also need a summer respite.
I’m considering a visit to Camp No Counselors—as seen on Shark Tank—which has multiple locations across the U.S., including Austin. Their motto: “Play like a kid, party like a grown up.” And each camp weekend is filled with theme parties, delicious meals, cocktails plus classic summer activities like dodgeball, arts and crafts, pingpong, and tug-of-war.
Camp Kid Again in Georgia offers an open bar as well as relay races, archery, tie-dye, and something called “human foosball.” Camp Halcyon in Wautoma, Wisconsin, claims to split the difference between nostalgia and, well hedonism. It has old-school cabins but also yoga on the beach and three chef-prepared meals a day. Sign me up as a summer camp counselor instead of the legal kind.
My father, the late Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer, who wrote a humor column for the Texas Bar Journal for 28 years, had a prodigious talent for napping in a hammock. But when it came to outdoor grilling, he was terrible. No skill at all. So, I know he’d have gotten a big kick out of Cecil Kuhne’s book, The Little Book of BBQ Law, which you’ll read about in this month’s article. Stay cool in the summer sun! And many thanks for your emails, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph L. “Joe” Hood Jr., of El Paso, had a fun deposition recently. When I asked if I could use Joe’s name in this vignette, he replied, “Pam—I have no secrets.” Attention law students and new attorneys, this is as good as it gets.
Mr. Hood: Mr. Doe had actually started at Company B before that date, hadn’t he?
Mr. Hood: More than a year before that, hadn’t he?
Mr. Hood: You need to say yes or no.
Witness: Yes, yes… I’m just so enthralled by you, sorry.
Mr. Hood (after a pause): You’ve left me speechless.
THE COURT: That’s a first.
Oh no, typos!!
Mark Murrah, of Houston, received an email from a colleague with a typo he felt was too good to waste.
Case X is about Jane Doe’s mother-in-law’s next-door neighbor using her house not to live out of but rather as a place of business. The neighborhood is an effluent one built around a prominent Country Club….
[Effluent: sewage discharge. Affluent: the basis of a solid lawsuit.]
John P. Clarson, of Fort Worth, remembers a typo he made when he was fresh out of law school. After John filed a number of default judgments on behalf of his firm, he received a phone call from a local district judge:
Judge: Do you have the proposed order in Lawsuit X in front of you?
Mr. Clarson: Yes, sir.
Judge: Do you see the request for attorneys’ fees in your document, son?
Mr. Clarson: Yes, sir.
Judge: Do I have your permission to correct what I presume to be a typo? And to substitute the letter “U” instead of the letter “H” so that the phrase reads, “fees requested for filing this SUIT” instead of “filing this sh—?”
Mr. Clarson: YES, SIR!
Amen to that!
From a retired lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous, a fun story about a jury trial he defended in federal court many years ago in Tyler. At the conclusion of a rousing closing argument, our hero said:
Attorney: And in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I say “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Juror (blurts out): Amen!
Judge (after spinning his chair around and remaining for several long minutes with his back to the courtroom until he could regain his composure): Will there be any rebuttal?
Plaintiff’s counsel couldn’t resist that rebuttal but he, along with the judge and everyone else in the courtroom, let out some pent-up giggles once the jury departed to deliberate. Plaintiff’s counsel then offered to settle but our hero stayed pat and won.
Caselaw and recipes—that’s the savory fare cooked up by Dallas attorney Cecil B. Kuhne III for his project The Little Book of BBQ Law. Personal injury, stolen recipes, trademark disputes, duty to provide a safe workplace—the world of barbecue can be a dangerous place indeed, but Kuhne has the salt, and pepper, to lead us through it. He briefs readers on the legal issues and then follows up each discussion with a tasty recipe. Voila, delicious!
Case: Is a city liable when a volunteer at a cookout for a Little League team has his hand broken by a falling lid on a very large barbecue grill? No, the city had no notice of the defect.
Recipe: Old-fashioned Texas brisket.
Case: Did a grocery store that also sold barbecue sandwiches create an unnecessary hazard that led to a customer slipping on a piece of bread soaked in barbecue sauce and injuring herself? No, inspections of premises by store owner were reasonable.
Recipe: Classic Kansas City barbecue sauce.
Case: Is an employer liable when its employees are instructed to dig a barbecue pit for a company employee party and then afterward go swimming to clean up but are injured jumping off a diving board? No, scope of employment had ended.
Recipe: Irresistible St. Louis pork ribs.
Case: Can a noncompete clause bind a seller “and his wife” where the wife worked for years as an unpaid waitress at her husband’s barbecue restaurant where the husband was the sole owner-seller of the business? No, unpaid employees cannot be governed by a noncompete agreement (even if the wife was awarded monthly payments from the restaurant sale in a later divorce).
Recipe: Over-the-top coleslaw.
Kuhne shares that his personal all-time favorite barbecue joint was in Amarillo, in a 1940s shotgun shack with old school desks for seating and a cash register so ancient that it had to pre-date World War II.
From San Antonio comes this marvelous courtroom exchange involving what Chief Bankruptcy Judge Ronald B. King of the Western District of Texas describes as "a very testy witness." During a 5 1/2- day hearing, neither the CEO witness nor the questioning attorney were willing to give an inch. Proving once again that litigation is often like grade school.
Q: I want you to point to me here in...[the document] where it permits indebtedness to be swapped out for equity.
A: It doesn't say that I can't.
Q: It doesn't say that you can, either, right?
A: It doesn't say that I can't, either.
Q: It doesn't say that you can, does it?
A: It doesn't say that I can't either.
Q: How long do you think we could go at that?
A: A long time.
Judge King: Not long.
Q: (pragmatic attorney): Touché.TBJ
PAMELA BUCHMEYER is an attorney and award-winning writer who lives in Dallas and Jupiter, Florida. Her work-in-progress is a humorous murder mystery, The Judge’s Daughter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.