January 31, 2007
May 1993 - Did I Really Ask That?

From Judge David Cleveland of Palo Pinto (29th District Court), this testimony from the trial of will contest involving two wills left by Walter Howeth:

Q. When did you last see Walter?

A. At the funeral.

Q. Did he make any comment to you at that time?

A. No, sir.

Judge Cleveland adds: "I have wondered who might have been most relieved that the answer was no: the jury, opposing parties, mortician, or the doctor who signed the death certificate."

January 30, 2007
July 1991 - Doing Voir Dire

Robert Myers of San Antonio (Willis, Hickey, etc) not only believes "that the risks of trial far outweighed the risks of depositions," he is convinced "that certain aspects of trial (most notably voir dire examination) are more dangerous still."

Juror No. 19 (Frank Kalani Laa) wished to approach the bench to ask a question; Judge Spears, being understandably unfamiliar with the pronunciation of Mr. Kalani Laa's last name, sought assistance:

The Court: Number 19, would you step forward please.

The Court: How do you pronounce your name?

Juror Laa: Frank.

January 29, 2007
December 1990 - I'm Glad We Cleared That Up: The Elephants

From Mark W. Laney of Plainview, these excerpts from the deposition of the defendant's expert in a workers' compensation case; the expert has just testified that - contrary to the opinion of the treating physician - he believes the plaintiff could return to work (even though he had no idea of what the plaintiff did before he was injured). Then ...

Q. Your understanding of the "total incapacity" is that it's whether or not they can go back to what they were doing before, right?

A. Right.

Q. You have no idea what ________ was doing before, right?

A. Right.

Q. So you don't have any way of saying by your own definition whether or not he has total incapacity, do you?

A. Yes, I do, in that apparently he was able to do the job he did before ...

Q. So it's your testimony that in spite of his operation to remove two discs. . . that, if his job before this was to carry elephants from one test to another, then he ought to be able to get back out there and do that.

A. With proper training, yes.

Q. So would it be a fair summary of your opinion to say that having an operation for one or two ruptured discs is just flat not going to affect a person's ability to do heavy manual labor?

A. If the person is given an opportunity to return his body to appropriate strength.

January 26, 2007
June 1985 - How Did The Accident Happen?

Q. Can you tell me in your own words what happened as you were heading to collect the money and you were coming on Memorial Drive?

A. I have been trying to figure that out ever since it happened, Mister.

Q. In other words, you were just coming down Memorial Drive -

A. And the next news I know, it was Sunday.

Q. How come your car laid down 167 feet of skid marks?

A. Well, that is how far I slid.

Q. And when did you first realize that there was an accident about to occur?

A. Well, when he hit me I knew there was an accident.

Q. Do you know who hit who?

A. I'd say we probably collided about the same time.

Q. Do you know of any witnesses to the accident?

A. Well, none excepting the ones that saw it.

Q. How far were you going at the time of the accident?

A. Oh, I was only going after some olives.

January 25, 2007
March 2005 - The Jury Pool From Hell

My law clerk, Jennifer Mauskapf, found this article on CNN.com about a group of prospective jurors from Memphis, Tenn., who were summoned to hear a case “of Tennessee trailer park violence.” Right after jury selection began, one man got up and left, announcing, “I’m on morphine and I’m higher than a kite.”

When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.

Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. “I should have known something was up,” he said. “She had all her teeth.”

Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: “In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you’re probably guilty.” He was not chosen.

The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother’s girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin’s client was found not guilty.

January 24, 2007
July 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?

Jim D. Bowmer of Temple (Bowmer, Courtney) sent me a couple of stories "about our great friend Percy Foreman." One time when Percy was questioning a prospective juror of German heritage in Comal County, which is not noted for its leniency against criminal defendants. It wa a murder case. The questioning had been centered on the venireman's concept of reasonable doubt." Finally, Percy asked:

Q. What would you do if you thought the defendant was innocent?

A. (After a long period of silent deliberation) Oh, about two years.

January 23, 2007
September 2002 - Divorce Pending

From Timothy M. Quill:

In answers to a lengthy jury questionnaire, a female prospective juror indicated that she and her husband were in the process of divorce, a proceeding that the husband had initiated. She made it clear that she had some bitterness about the matter.

Q. What are your spouse's hobbies, favorite recreations, or pastimes?

A. Drinking and adultery.

January 22, 2007
March 1993 - From The Trials of Pro Se

From Richard A. Tindall of Houston, this contribution - "both an excerpt from a deposition and the ensuing trial" - from a divorce case in which Richard represented the wife. The husband, who is the witness in this Q & A, was appearing pro se.

Q. How much education do you have?

A. About three semesters at Lon Morris Junior College.

Q. Do you remember giving your deposition in my office several weeks ago?

A. Yes I do, you threatened me that we might have to take it in front of the judge.

Q. Do you remember me asking you about your education at that time?

A. I think so.

Q. Do you remember your answer?

A. I'm not sure.

Q. Well, let's take a look at it.

A. Okay.

Q. You stated you had a master's degree in geophysics from The University of Texas, didn't you?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Mr. Chappell, when you gave that answer, were you mistaken or was it just a barefaced lie?

A. It was a barefaced lie.

Richard adds: Later in the trial, the pro se husband puts the teenage daughter on the stand and asked:

Q. Who do you think is the craziest, me or your mother?

A. (perceptively) I don't think either one of you is crazier than the other one.

January 19, 2007
December 1995 - Those Jurors

From Judge David V. Wilson of Lufkin (207th District Court), this excuse from a Juror Reply Form that Judge Gerald Godwin (159th District Court) received from a 66-year-old juror:

I have received a summons for jury service but I request to be excused or exempt for the following reason: I can't even make a correct decision for me. Much less for someone else. I smoke so I would have to leave the building to go smoke every hour. Then too if it is a case of male and female: Don't you know the male is guilty.

January 18, 2007
January 2007 - And His Nickname Is Lucky

Judge Burt Carnes of Georgetown (368th District Court) provided this contribution and the title. It’s an excerpt from a recent bench trial in his court that was prosecuted by Lindsey Roberts and defended by Steve Copenhaver. The defendant had stated repeatedly at the scene of his arrest and in court that he was 100 percent disabled — and he obviously wanted the opportunity to explain. This testimony followed:

Q. You had talked about your disabilities some. You know, I don’t want to get into a large medical history. But what type of disabilities do you currently have?

A. Well, I started off with problems with my left leg, constant pain and numbness. And finally they detected a large bone tumor. And when they removed the bone tumor, I lost my tibia as well with it. And then I pretty much felt like I was recovering from that. But I was at a red light, and a drunk driver in a Ford F-150 pickup truck hit me headon at 150 miles per hour — at over 80 miles per hour, and the impact ruptured my disc, and I became paralyzed for nine months from the waist down. And I’m partially paralyzed still. But I didn’t ever file for disability then because I’m trained in martial arts, 44 years, and I have my pride. So I just continued trying to recover.

And I was snow skiing in Santa Fe, and my ski didn’t come off, and I lost all four ligaments, my cruciates, my posterior, my anterior, my cartilage, and I lost my quadricep as well.

And then at that point I was pretty well fully disabled. But unfortunately, after that I was shot in the head three times, and my right arm was shot. And the artery was severed, and two nerves are permanently damaged and my bone was shattered into fragments. So it was unrepairable. So I have a steel rod from my shoulder to my elbow. And my artery was surgically repaired, but my arm is — well they wanted to amputate it, and I refused. I have the illusion of two arms.

January 12, 2007
June 1998 - Permission To Beg Granted

From Sean P. Healy of Tyler (Healy & Hester), this exchange that occurred while he "was waiting in the 114th District Court for [his] civil case to be called" after Judge Cynthia Kent finished a habeas corpus hearing. After the evidence concluded, Judge Kent was proceeding with lengthy oral findings, when "the defense attorney sensed that things might not be going his way." So ...

Defense Attorney: May we beg ...

The Court: You can beg in a minute ...

January 11, 2007
November 2001 - Classic Typos

From Lee Bass of El Paso (Lee is the Legal Assistant to Francis S. Ainsa Jr. of Ainsa Hutson), this typo from the minutes of the State Bar Construction Law Section Meeting at the State Bar Convention in Austin:

Rick Reed thanked the membership for his election as Chairperson and presented outgoing Chairperson Lewis Plunkett with a plague in recognition of his outstanding work as this year's Chairperson.

January 10, 2007
May 1998 - This May Sound Stupid, But ...

From F. Alfonso Charles of Longview (Alfonso is an assistant criminal district attorney), this trial excerpt from the examination of the defendant's son by Assistant Criminal District Attorney, Joseph M. Black, IV.

Q. Now, how are you related to Marcy Broadway?

A. She is my stepmother.

Q. This is going to sound like a stupid question, but has she been your stepmother the entire period of time your father and her have been married?


From Neil E. Weinbrenner of Las Cruces, N.M., this deposition excerpt:

Q. Did you know Michael Stringfield before you married him?

A. Yes.

January 09, 2007
July 1998 - Those Jurors

From C. Charles Dippel of Houston, this response by a prospective juror to a jury questionnaire in one of his recent trials:

Q. Identify three people that you dislike and explain why.

A. The first, second, and third lawyers my ex-wife hired.

January 08, 2007
June 1996 - What Part of "No" Don't You Understand?

From Ray Putney of Houston, this excerpt from the cross-examination of the 17-year-old son of his client, in an automobile accident case.

Q. You said your mom was always so intelligent. You don't think she's as intelligent as she was?

A. No, I don't.

Q. Pardon me?

A. No, I don't.

Q. Why not?

A. Because she can't process thoughts, and that's part of intelligence.

Q. What do you mean she can't process thoughts?

A. I mean she can't process thoughts. That's what I mean. She can't process thoughts. Is there a word you don't understand? "Can't", "process", or "thoughts"? Which one? She can't process thoughts.

January 05, 2007
April 1994 - Did I Really Ask That?

From Bradley N. Randall of Beaumont (an assistant city attorney) - Bradley contributed this marvelous "Neanderthal and Cretinous Yahoo" excerpt from a deposition of a city driver in a car accident case. The questions are by Barry Bennett of Port Arthur (Gerald Eddins & Associates).

Q. Were you ever counseled about this accident?

A. It says I was. I don't remember it.

Q. You don't recall that?

A. I don't recall it, no, not right off.

Q. You've never had any problems with your memory, have you?

A. Just getting older.

Q. To your recollection, have you had any memory problems?

A. No.

January 04, 2007
June 1993 - Did I Really Hear That?

From Jack N. Price of Austin, this excerpt from a deposition which demonstrates the "colorful new phrases" we can learn from depositions:

Q. When did you come back to Odessa?

A. The same day.

Q. The same day as the accident?

A. Yes.

Q. How did you get back here?

A. I flew from Houston to here.

Q. Who flew you, did you fly a commercial airline?

A. No, Southwest.

January 03, 2007
March 2006 - The "Project Engineer"

This marvelous contribution, from Timothy K Borchers of Seattle, Wash. (Cozen O'Connor), is from a deposition of a "project engineer."

Q. Now let's go back to Exhibit 18. It looks to me like this pump submittal from SRV is dated Oct. 14, 2002. Right?

A. That's the date of this letter, correct.

Q. Okay. And SRV was required to submit this pump submittal five days after the execution of the contract, which they received on Oct. 9. So 14 minus 9 is how many?

A. I don't know. I need a calculator.

Q. You need a calculator to subtract 9 from 14?

A. Yeah.

Q. You're the project engineer on a $5 million infrastructure project, and you're telling me you need a calculator to subtract 9 from 14?

A. We always have calculators.

Q. Really, you can't subtract 9 from 14 without a calculator?

A. It's 6.

Q. Actually, Ms. ______, I think it's 5.

A. I think I told you I need a calculator.

Q. Okay. Should we be a little concerned about the fact that you're handling millions of dollars of local, state, and federal funds at this point?

Mr. ______: Objection; argumentative.

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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.

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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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