October 31, 2008
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.

October 30, 2008
March 1998 - The Energizer Bunny

From Marion J. Borchers of New Braunfels, this excerpt from a pleading filed in a bankruptcy court in the Southern District of California. In the case, "the ex-husband of the debtor opposed the sale of land in Comal County, Texas and appealed an adverse ruling, lost three motions to stay, and then filed an ex parte motion for clarification" - which drew this response from Jeffrey Isaacs of San Diego, Calif. (Procupio, Cory, etc.):

Response and Opposition to Ex Parte Application for Clarification of Court's Order Regarding Sale of Texas Real Property and Request for Sanctions Under Rule 9011 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure

Like the Energizer bunny, defendants just keep going and going and going ...

October 29, 2008
March 1990 - Is That a Reasonable Fee?

This is from a hearing before the Texas Railroad Commission. It comes from Jack Balagia, Jr. of Austin (McGinnis, Lochridge, etc): he explains that An Unnamed Austin Lawyer is testifying in support of the reasonableness of the hourly rates being charged by his firm - which were to be passed through to the customers by the gas utility his firm was representing:

Q. [T]he client is charged for those fees (of the law firm in this Commission proceeding)?

A. That's correct.

Q. And he is also paying for those fees rather than the rate-payers. Is that not true?

A. That is correct.

Q. All right, I notice here Mr. [Name Partner] only charges $130 an hour. In fact, you are the only one I see that is charging $500 an hour.

A. Well, Mr. [Name Partner] - that's all that I see here that Mr. [Name Partner] charged on that, but that is not his hourly rate, and I don't know how that happened to be that low because that is not -

Q. Do you think he took compassion on the ratepayers?

A. I have no idea how it happened. Normally in my business - I'm not involved in the compassion business. We charge by the hour ...

October 28, 2008
February 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?

From Mary Strand, a staff attorney for the Tyler Court of Appeals, this testimony from a hearing on temporary child conservatorship - by witness who had "obviously not been testifying as expected":

Q. Let me ask you this: Have you been frank in your answers?

A. No, I've been telling the truth.

October 27, 2008
November 2008 - Did They Really Say That?

From Donald A. Ferrill of Fort Worth (Brown Thompson, etc.), this statement from a Petition for Review filed in the Texas Supreme Court by opposing counsel:

Evidence does exist that the body was destroyed. Dr. Reed's Single Animal Record reflects that he conducted his own autopsy.

October 24, 2008
March 1999 - Classic Typos

Et cetera's first triple submission - from San Antonio attorneys Jonathan B. Cluck (Kampmann & Cluck), Clarkson F. Brown (Brian L. Blakely & Associates), and Jason J. Thompson (Thompson & Thompson) - this typo in a Jan. 5, 1999 letter sent by an "Attorney-Mediator-Arbitrator" to lawyers in San Antonio:

Dear Fellow Attorney: After 41 years of litigation, I have decided to turn my attention to medication and arbitration.

I have been an attorney since 1957, admitted to practice in New York. ...

In addition I have been a faulty member of the American Trial Lawyers Association. The Texas College of Trial Advocacy Affiliated with South Texas School of Law.

October 23, 2008
April 1998 - The Judge Without a Gavel

Robert F. Barnes of Hidalgo (former district judge of the 93rd and 275th district courts), was visited by a group of third-grade students from Mission on a "field trip" when he was sitting in Mission as a visiting judge. Each kid was invited to sit in the judge's chair on the bench, and one noticed there was no gavel - because, among the 42 "thank you" letters from the class, was this marvelous one:

Dear Judge Barnes,

I like your courtroom and your chair. Is a judge easy? I want to be a judge. How big is your hammer?

October 22, 2008
July 2006 - Classic Typo

Jack Haney of Huntsville (Haney, Kraemer & Moorman) recently received a motion for production of documents that asked for production of:

Copies of signature card and other records concerning any account of decedent, _______, with Vanguard and Infidelity Investments.

October 21, 2008
June 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?

James P. Walker, Jr. of Dallas (McKinley, Dubner) shares an excerpt from the deposition of a bankruptcy debtor who is serving time for stock fraud at the La Tuna Federal Corrections Institution. This cross-examination is by Wade Williams of Galveston (Mills, Shirley).

Q. And so that, whether or not that money was actually being used to buy stocks, she really wouldn't know otherwise, correct?

A. That's correct.

Q. Okay. Because the confirmation slip stayed the same for a real as opposed to a fictitious stock transfer?

A. That is correct.

Q. You've talked in a lot of generalities with regard to the last 90 days and what went on. Am I correct?

A. Yeah, - whatever I testified to, that's what I said.

James astutely notes: "I am not sure if it ever gets much clearer than this."

October 20, 2008
April 1997 - Did They Really Say That?

From Robert F. Redmond, Jr. of Richmond, Va. (McGuire, Woods, etc.), who is a member of the State Bar of Texas, this excerpt from his deposition of a personal injury plaintiff "who claimed soft tissue neck and back injuries subsequent to a very minor rear end impact."

Q. What's the longest you have been able to sit and read in the past year without pain?

A. An hour.

Q. After an hour, no matter whether you have a flare-up or not, you suffer pain; is that correct?

A. No.

Q. Well, what happens after an hour if you're not having a flare-up?

A. I usually don't read that long.

October 17, 2008
February 1999 - SPEAKING IN "lower case"

From David S. Crawford of Arlington (Perdue, Brandon, etc.), this marvelous excerpt from the transcript of a hearing before Judge Thomas Wilson Lowe III of Fort Worth (236th District Court) in a case involving a pro se, "lower case" defendant.

THE COURT: How do you wish to be addressed?

MR DORSETT: Leonard R. Dorsett not in upper case.

THE COURT: I don't know how to speak in lower case, sir ...Are you speaking in upper case or lower case, sir?

MR DORSETT: lower case.

THE COURT: (wisely): The court reporter will record this in lower case. This is Cause Number L-14534-97, Carroll Independent School District versus Leonard R. Dorsett. Is plaintiff ready?

MR. CRAWFORD: plaintiff is ready, your honor.

THE COURT: Is respondent ready? ...(No response) ... Leonard R. Dorsett, that's you. You are the respondent. Are you ready?

MR DORSETT: i have stated that i'm here as a witness, not as a respondent because i have not been properly identified ...

THE COURT: Sir, just a minute. The court really just wanted a "yes" or "no." Is that a "no?"

MR DORSETT: That's a "no."

THE COURT: Are you requesting a continuance by the court?

MR DORSETT: i don't know how to answer that, sir, because this is my first time in a courtroom. i am trying to get across to the court that i am here as a witness in lower case letter to begin with, not here as a respondent in uppercase letter.

THE COURT: The court takes note of that. Plaintiff, will you proceed.

MR. CRAWFORD: thank you, your honor.

October 16, 2008
February 1999 - What Did I Just Say?

From Darryl S. Vereen of El Paso (Mounce Green, ect.), this excerpt from "the deposition of the investigating DPS trooper in a multi-vehicle truck/auto fatality collision" - where beer cans were found in the decendent's car.

Q. Did you in fact look into whether or not Mr. Craver had been drinking prior to this accident?

A. Yes.

Q. How did you go about doing that?

A. Blood sample.

Q. And did you obtain a report through the Department of Public Safety as to Mr. Craver's blood alcohol level?

A. Yes.

Q. And what was his blood alcohol level?

A. It indicated that he did not have any blood in his system at the time.

Q. Let me hand you what we will go ahead and mark as Plaintiff's exhibit -

A. Or what did I just say?

October 15, 2008
January 2001 - You Wake Him Up

From Michael M. Fulton of San Antonio, this exchange that took place years ago in a trial before an elderly State District Judge who "went to sleep from time to time on the bench."

Plaintiff's Attorney: The bus ran the red light, didn't it?

Defendant's Attorney: Objection. He's leading the witness, your honor.

Plaintiff's Attorney: The judge is asleep.

Defendant's Attorney: Well, wake him up.

Plaintiff's Attorney: You wake him up. It's your objection!

October 14, 2008
January 1999 - Revenue and Safety

From William E. "Gene" Storie of Austin - Gene is the assistant chief of the Taxation Division in the Texas Attorney's office - this excerpt from his deposition of the other side's expert.

Q. From your understanding of this lawsuit, is it about pipeline safety?

A. Not directly.

Q. Do sales of gas to consumers deal with safety considerations?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the relation between revenue and safety?

A. If you deliver gas in a three-ounce meter at 200 psi and you blow the house up, your revenue goes down.

[Heavy laughter by everyone, then ...]

Mr. Bernal: You asked him.

Mr. Storie: I think I did ask that.

October 13, 2008
February 1999 - Did They Really Ask That?

From Donald J. Hahn of Dallas (Collins, Norman & Basinger), this question that a lawyer asked his client in a hearing in Probate Court No. 2 (Judge Robert E. Price):

Q. Now, Mrs. Smith, is it true that you were well acquainted with John Smith as a result of the fact that you were married to him for over 55 years?

October 10, 2008
February 1999 - Did They Really Report That?

From Ted H. Roberts of San Antonio, the following excerpt from a newspaper article in the San Antonio Express News.

CORPUS CHRISTI - Two weeks after first hearing about the last moments of the victims' lives, jurors in South Texas sentenced the man who killed the Refugio County residents to death.

October 09, 2008
February 1999 - Lawyers are Next

From Amy K. Rosenberg of Fort Collins, Colo. (Liggett, Smith & Williams), this trial excerpt from a "marriage dissolution proceeding" in which Amy's colleague, Michael Liggett, "was cross-examing the soon-to-be ex-wife" regarding some of her expenditures.

Q. "Wynbriar," is that an antique store?

A. No, that's not. That's a tobacco shop.

Q. What did you buy for $831?

A. A fox.

Q. A fox?

A. Yes.

The Court: Wait a minute. I've got to know. You mean, an animal?

The Witness: No. He's - I have a dead animal farm. It's a stuffed fox.

The Court: A stuffed fox. Okay.

Q. You say you have a dead animal farm. You collect taxidermy?

A. Does that surprise you?

Q. What other animals do you have?

A. Lawyers are next.

October 08, 2008
July 1987 - Do You Swear to Tell the Truth...

Judge: (To young witness) Do you know what would happen to you if you told a lie?

Witness: Yes, I would go to hell.

Judge: Is that all?

Witness: Isn't that enough?

October 07, 2008
February 2002 - Are You A Spirit?

From Karan 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. 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 apointed by the judge."

October 06, 2008
September 1997 - Did They Really Say That?

From Walter Cowger of Dallas (Akin, Gump), this excerpt from the deposition of the plaintiff in a wrongful discharge case.

Q. Did you come here today [from Oregon] just for this deposition?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. You're not planning to move back to Texas anytime soon?

A. We're planning on moving back this summer. Or I am. I think my wife wants to stay in Oregon.

Q. Why are you planning to move back?

A. Because I think Oregon sucks!

Q. (Wisely) Well, of course.

October 03, 2008
March 1988 - Does Orkin Know About This?

Ben Taylor, who works as a briefing attorney for Judge Kilgarlin of the Texas Supreme Court, found this testimony in a gas explosion case (reported at 736 S.W.2d 836). He explains that the defense attorney "was attempting to cross-examine one of the plaintiff's fact witness."

Q. Did you ever see any roaches killed by natural gas?

A. I'm sure a lot of them died when it blew up.

Q. No, but I am talking about —

The Judge: At least I hope so.

Q. Did you see any of those that were blown up?

The Judge: Did you see any mangled bodies of roaches?

A. Please repeat the question.

Q. Prior to the explosion, did you ever see any roaches that have been asphyxiated by the natural gas?

A. I wouldn't — I don't recall. I wouldn't know if a roach had died from gas.

The Judge: A natural death, or —

Plaintiff's Attorney: No autopsies were done on the roaches.

Q. We don't have any further questions of this witness.

October 02, 2008
April 2003 - Doing Voir Dire

From Paul Mewis of Houston, this excerpt from a voir dire record in a criminal case.

The Court: What kind of work do you do?

Prospective Juror: I'm a financial analyst.

The Court: How long have you been doing that?

Prospective Juror: 610 years.

The Court: Do you like it?

Prospective Juror: Yes.

October 01, 2008
May 1985 - Were You in the Military Service?

Q. Were you in the Army?

A. No sir, I didn't go.

Q. Why?

A. Well, when I was ready to leave they said, 'Well, everything is over,' and I say, 'Okay,' So I didn't go.

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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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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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