November 30, 2005
July 2003 - Did They Really Say That?

This contribution from Ileana M. Blanco (Bracewell & Giuliani):

Q. Let's talk about McNish for a moment. You said he was a beast. He weighed about 300 pounds, didn't he?

The Court: I don't think I heard anybody say anybody was a beast.

The Witness: I didn't say anybody was a beast.

Q. I thought he said five 10 and a beast. Maybe I misunderstood.

A. Obese. I didn't say he was a beast.

Q. Obese.

The Court: Okay.

Q. Maybe my accent is -- fat. McNish was fat?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And like 300 pounds, 300-pound gentleman, somewhere in that ballpark area?

A. I'm not absolutely certain. He's certainly very overweight.

November 29, 2005
May 2005 - The Juror Note

This contribution is from District Judge Gary L. Clingman of Lovington, N.M. It is a note "written on the back of a response to a post-jury service comment/suggestion survey we regularly send out!"

"I have a comment, or complaint about one of the public defenders' lawyers. I cannot remember his name, but I remember his appearance and mannerisms very well. He is not very tall and a little overweight. He desperately needed to shave and get a haircut. He mumbled very badly and I couldn't hardly understand him. He weaved back and forth from the microphone, it was very annoying. It was so irritating. I wanted to convict him of something. Someone really needs to let him know that his appearance and actions in the courtroom has a lot of bearing on people's perception of him as an effective lawyer. Thanks."

November 28, 2005
January 2002 - Did They Really Ask That?

From Senior State District Judge A. D. Azios of Houston, this incident which took place while he was trying a felony case as a visiting judge in Montgomery County. The questions are by Assistant District Attorney Mike Seiler.

Q. Mrs. …, will you please identify yourself to the jury?

A. My name is Mrs. …; I am the complainant’s mother.

Q. Have you been her mother all her life?

November 23, 2005
November 2005 - Least Competent Criminals

Jerome S. Levy of Dallas found this item in the "Calendar" section of the Reno Gazette while he and his wife were hiking around Lake Tahoe:

Elijah Walker, 35, who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in Cincinnati in June, resisted complying with the state requirement that he also give up a DNA sample, because he feared the state would use it to create a clone of him. (Said the prosecutor, reassuringly, "I'm not sure the state really wants another Elijah Walker.")

November 22, 2005
November 2005 - A Flight of Ideas

Paul Bernstein of Berkeley, Calif., makes his return to et cetera after several years with this excerpt from a California state court trial:

Q. And, Doctor, you also said that she had a "flight of ideas" and was "psychotic." Could you explain what she was doing to show flight of ideas.

A. She had a flight of ideas, which means her thought process - in that she was not able to form a linear coherent thought ...

Q. So she would jump from one idea -

A. Yes -

Q. - to the next, would that be correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And was that ... I will withdraw that question because I can't remember what I said.

November 21, 2005
February 2002 - Are You a Spirit?

From Karen Hogan of San Antonio (Karen is the Court Investigator for Judge Polly Jackson Spencer, Probate Court No. One in Bexar County), this note sent to Judge Spencer by William Goodman, the court-appointed attorney ad litem “in the guardianship proceeding of the proposed ward the day after the hearing.”

Prior to the hearing, I was talking with my client, the proposed ward, about her belief in spirits, and about how her deceased husband is a spirit who lives with his spirit girlfriends in the walls behind the bathroom mirror.

At one point she asked, “Are you a spirit?” I said I wasn’t sure — and anyway, how would I know?

“Well, to be a spirit,” she said, “you would have to be appointed by God.”

“I guess not then,” I replied. “I’m just an attorney appointed by the judge

November 18, 2005
June 2004 - Doing Voir Dire

This contribution is from District Judge Buddie J. Hahn of Orange (260th Judicial District). Judge Hahn relates:

“Earlier this month we were trying a criminal case sexual assault of a minor. Prior to beginning voir dire, I always tell the jury panel, ‘If a question is asked that you feel you must respond to, but for whatever reason, you would prefer not answering it in front of a panel, you may wait to the end of voir dire, and we can discuss it in private.’

“During the voir dire process, the prosecutor asked a female member of the panel the following,

‘Juror No. ____, would you please stand and face the panel and tell them all the details of your last sexual experience?’ (an attempt to demonstrate the embarrassment of the victim having to testify).

“The prosecutor expected a quick ‘No’ response, but after a fairly long pause, the juror said, ‘Could I talk to you later about that?’

November 17, 2005
February 2002 - Those Jurors

From Dan Lewis Carabin of San Antonio, this incident which his secretary Mary Lou Oravits, recently observed during voir dire in a criminal trial pending in the 144th District Court of Bexar County (the Honorable Robert Barton, Senior Judge presiding).Assistant District Attorney to a prospective female juror:

“Could you return a verdict of guilty on the testimony of only one eye witness?”

Prospective Juror (with all seriousness): “No, I could not give a guilty verdict, the witness would have to have two eyes.”

November 16, 2005
January 2004 - Did She Really Ask That?

From Robert A. Bragalone of Dallas (Cooper & Scully), this excerpt from a deposition he recently attended.

Q. And where are - how are you calculating that? How old do you believe Damien was when he was born? We'll start there.

Mr. Bragalone: Object to form. That's one of those for Judge Buchmeyer.

Ms. Vaughan: Let me rephrase that

.A. From the discharge -

Q. (By Ms. Vaughan) That one would have definitely been misleading. Let me rephrase that.

November 15, 2005
September 2004 - Did They Reallly Say That?

From Matt Anderson of Wichita Falls (Gibson, Hotchkiss, Roach & Davenport), this excerpt from a deposition taken by his friend, John Rosentreter:

Q. Would you state your full name for the record, please?

A. William Robin Hood.

Q. Did you get teased a lot as a kid?

A. Not until now.

November 14, 2005
November 2005 - Not Even Close

From Mark W. Laney of Plainview (Laney & Stokes), these excerpts from Rudd Owen's cross-examination of the plaintiff in a state court case:

Q. How old is your son?

A. 33.

Q. What does he do for a living?

A. He's a general manager of Hobby Lobby in Chicago.

Q. Works at the airport?

A. No, Hobby Lobby is a store.

Q. Okay. Isn't Hobby airport in Chicago?

A. No, that's Houston.

Q. Okay. Wasn't even close, was it?

Mr. Laney: We are talking Judge Buchmeyer here.

November 10, 2005
January 1989 - Closing Shots

This deposition excerpt comes from Jim Lombard, a legal assistant in Austin (Small, Craig); it concerns a deposition taken by Gary Thornton (also Small and Craig) of a plaintiff who claimed he had been injured on the job.

Q. Had you not been taught to keep the weight close to your -

A. Well, this is what I'm telling you. I had her the way it's supposed to be - the way I'm supposed to lift her. I lifted her the way I'm supposed to lift her because I don't want to hurt my back either, you understand? I don't want to hurt no part of my body doing no kind of the job whether you get paid for it or not. I don't want to be in no pain, you know, I'm not no S & M.

Q. S & M?

A. Yeah.

Q. What's that?

A. Love pain. I don't love pain.

Q. Okay. What's S & M stand for?

A. (Witness shrugged).

Q. I don't know. Tell me.

A. Me either.

Q. Is that a common phrase?

A. It's a phrase?

Q. What's it mean?

A. Beats me.

November 09, 2005
November 1988 - We Call Her "The Creeper"

From still another criminal case:

Q. Your grandmother, what's her age?

A. She was 88.

Q. Do you have a nickname for her?

A. The Creeper.

Q. Why do you call her The Creeper?

A. Because she's like a ghost, you know, when you be sitting in the living room or doing something, you know, the next thing you know, there she is standing there. She creeped up on you, you know.

Q. Does she have a tendency to go around at night?

A. She does it all the time. It drives you crazy.

Q. You can't tell for sure when she's going to move?

A. That's right.

Q. Does she move at one hour intervals, two hour intervals?

A. She moves when the move hit her.

Q. So, there is no way of telling when The Creeper is on the move ... and it's not a very private place, is it?

A. No.

Q. Does she see well?

A. Yes, that's one of her finer traits.

Q. Does she hear well?

A. Well, she don't hear that well, but she tells us what she wants to hear ...

Q. Does she know when James Mills may have a girl in his room?

A. Every time.

November 08, 2005
November 1988 - Well, Which One Is It?

During the taking of a guilty plea:

Judge: Are you giving this plea of guilty because of coercion or duress?

A. Coercion.

This unexpected answer was followed by an immediate, but brief conference between the defendant and his attorney, while the judge waited. Then defendant gave this answer:

A. Your Honor, I change my answer. It's duress.

At sentencing in another case:

Judge: You've been charged with the felony offense of kidnapping, and having waived a jury trial and pled guilty to such charges, the Court ... finds you guilty of such offense and assesses your penalty at 20 years in the Department of Public Safety. Further order of the Court, no reason not to be sentenced at this time.

Prosecutor: Your Honor, I think you said the Department of Public Safety, rather than the Department of Corrections.

Judge: Corrections. Excuse me. The Texas Department of Corrections. If I said that - let the record show that.

November 07, 2005
July 1988 - Back Up and Get Out of My Hair

Damon Ball of San Antonio (Groce, Locke) contributes what can best be called a "non-deposition," with these suggestions: Perhaps this story "could be called, The Classic Case of a Reluctant Witness.' Perhaps another title would be 'After the Court Reporter Asked the Witness to be Sworn, It Went Downhill and Stayed There."

Reporter: Would you raise your right hand to be sworn?

Witness: I'm not going to swear to nothing.

Mr. Figari: She is simply asking you to swear yourself in as a witness pursuant to the subpoena.

Witness: I am not no witness here.

Mr. Figari: I'm not - my role here is not to argue with you. All I simply want to do is develop -

Witness: Back up and get out of my hair, then. I am not saying nothing here.

Mr. Figari: I understand that.

Witness: Don't ask me no questions. Lady, don't ask me no questions because I'm not answering a dang thing that you ask me, now. Okay?

Mr. Figari: All she asked you to do at this point was simply take the oath.

Witness: I told y'all to start talking, but I ain't got nothing to say here.

Mr. Figari: May the record reflect the witness is standing when everyone else in the room is sitting. Would you please sit?

Witness: I'm fixing to walk out of here.

Mr. Figari: Well, I can't restrain you, and I'm not going to try. I'm trying to develop a record.

Witness: You are not getting anything from me, and I've told you all I'm going to. Okay? Do you want this?

Mr. Figari: Are you walking out of the deposition?

Witness: I am not answering no damn questions for you or anybody else, fellow.
Mr. Figari: I'm not asking you any question other than are you leaving the deposition permanently?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. Figari: Are you refusing to answer any questions?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Mr. Figari: Will you acknowledge that this is the subpoena you brought with you which has been marked with a blue sticker as Exhibit No. 1?

Witness: It kind of looks like it, doesn't it.

Mr. Figari: Was it served on you?

Witness: Let's go, Janice.

Mr. Figari: Was it served on you?

Witness: Come on.

(The witness exited the deposition)

November 04, 2005
September 2002 - Did They Really Say That?

From District Judge David V. Wilson of Lufkin (217th Judicial District), this mistake he found in a Probable Cause Affidavit typed by a deputy constable whose name will remain anonymous:

"... While searching the vehicle this deputy located a small brown bottle. ... The Defendant stated that it was cocaine. The Defendant was informed of his Marinade Warning."

November 03, 2005
March 2001 - Classic Typos

From Stuart Smith of Waco (Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee), this mistake made by the court reporter in transcribing Stuart's deposition of a California lawyer who attended Boalt Hall Law School of Berkeley.

Q. And where did you attend law school?

A. The University of California at Berkeley, which is commonly referred to as Bald Hog.

November 02, 2005
February 2001 - Did They Really Stammer That?

From Noel L. Johnson of Longview (J. Gene Bailey, P.C.), this excerpt from his deposition of the plaintiff in an accident case.

Q. When did you get over those problems [after the accident]?

A. I mean I can't say I got - I mean - excuse me. I didn't - I mean, I didn't -. Oh boy. I got them when I was - I mean, when I - I guess when I was well - I mean I don't - I can't - . Well sh**. They weren't persistent - I mean, pain. I mean, when I got - whenever the areas got well I was - a few months after that -. I guess. I don't know. Just when they got - just didn't notice them anymore.

Q. Over the years have you had some aches and pains in those same areas before this accident with [my client] ever happened?

A. Well, yes. Since you say that, yes.

November 01, 2005
February 2001 - Did They Really Say That?

From David L Shapiro in Austin, the most compelling reason he has ever seen “for asking the court to waive the 30-day restriction on remarriage” was given by the woman who was to marry David’s client:

"Paul and I have been planning on getting married in early October for several months and we’ve already hired the caterer."

Judge Pete M. Lowrey (261st District Court), of course, signed the decree of divoirce “without hesitation, on condition that the excuse be forwarded to et cetera!"

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About the Judge

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

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