The Judge’s Daughter: Under the Bench!
By Pamela Buchmeyer
The courts are back in session after a long shutdown for COVID-19. Fingers crossed for their future operations and for everyone’s health. May we all stay healthy and strong. Still, this might be a good time for a public service warning—bizarre things can and will happen when hapless witnesses testify and when lawyers try to shake off the cobwebs and get back to work.
Examples of this problem abound as this month’s column fully demonstrates. The following bloopers and blunders could make any judge want to crawl under the bench, or any lawyer crawl out the courtroom door. What would you do as the questioning lawyer in the following cases? Let me know and send along your own collection of guffaws and gaffes to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, it’s my pleasure to follow in the footsteps of my late father, U.S. District Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer, who for 28 years wrote a humor column for the Texas Bar Journal.
Is John Roberts Aware?
From a district court in Edinburg, a civil case brought by a prisoner and an excerpt from cross-examination of an officer in the Mission Police Department.
Atty: …Now correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t an inmate have a constitutional right, under the laws of the state of Texas and under the laws of the United States, to make a phone call?
A: No, sir. Constitutional right? There were no phones when the Constitution was written.
Atty: …No, no, no. I’m sorry. I’m going to have to think about that one.
From an attorney’s letter that offered a stirring and vigorous argument against pending legislation in the oil and gas industry, we find this amusing typo:
“When our democracy was formed in our great living document, the United States constitution, there were specific safeguards of property rights. These rights are to be held in violet.”
When Date Night Ends in Divorce Court
From a court in Beaumont, “incriminating” testimony from an eyewitness in a personal injury case where the defendant was an establishment offering alcohol and dancing to customers.
Atty: Was there anyone else sitting at your table?
A: Yes, sir. There was about eight couples there that night.
Atty: Did you have a date that night?
A: No, sir. With me, I had my wife.
Also, from a writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of counsel due to the lawyer’s failure to interview possible witnesses: “Petitioner had alibi witnesses to testify on his behalf that he was alone at the time of the offense.”
Not My Son-In-Law!
From a case where the judge was considering home confinement in lieu of jail time and not submitted by my own son-in-law who was forced to isolate for three long months during COVID-19 with his two mothers-in-law, my wife and me.
Judge: …the only telephone you had access to was at your ex-mother-in-law’s house…You have to be near a telephone at all times when you’re on electronic monitoring. You, therefore, have a choice of staying with your ex-mother-in-law for 15 days or to stay in jail. Which one do you want to do?
A: I’d rather be in jail for 15 days than with my ex-mother-in-law for 15 days, sir.
Autocorrect Cannot Save You!
It can’t even save itself. To wit, there’s a clever joke going around about what happens when autocorrect walks into a bar.
Bartender: What can I get you?
Autocorrect: I’ll have a bear. A bare. Bier. Briar. Oh, never mind!
And so, we ponder the following marvelous typos sent in from Dallas, Houston, Lake Jackson, Austin, and San Antonio.
From answers to interrogatories: “Plaintiffs reserve the right to illicit testimony from adverse witnesses designated by Defendants.”
From a letter to opposing counsel: “This letter will also confirm…that you will not oppose a Notion for Continuance.”
From a newspaper column dedicated to citation by publication, where the defendant being sued in a divorce case could not be found, this most amusing and perhaps entirely accurate typo: “Attention Defendant, YOU HAVE BEEN USED. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer…”
I’ll Take a Beer and the Fifth
Yes, dear readers, this laudable line is actually in print. From a criminal case involving the admission of a confession (490 S.W.2d 573).
Q.: …have you ever heard about taking the Fifth?
A.: A fifth of wine?
Q.: No, the Fifth Amendment.
A Selfless Image
Autocorrect’s companion must be Photoshop, a program that this poor attorney from El Paso must have wished to use to edit himself out of the frame after posing a regrettable inquiry.
Atty: Ms. Doe, would you look at this picture, and tell me if you recognize the person in that picture?
A: Yes, that’s me.
Atty: OK. Now you did not take that picture, did you?
A: No, I did not.
Atty: But you were present for that picture?
A: Yes indeed.TBJ
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.