September 30, 2009
November 1999 - What Did I Score?

From Catherine E. Brown Dodson of Amarillo this excerpt "from a hearing in a suit to establish paternity filed in the 181st District Court, the Honorable Samuel C. Kiser presiding."

The mother was represented by Arnold N. Miller and the father by Mary Louise Kibbey.

Q. Before we begin, I need to tell you that because my client is acknowledging paternity, all we will be addressing today will be child support.

A. (No reply.)

Q. Do you understand that? My client is acknowledging that he is the father of this child, so all we will be talking about will be the amount of child support. Do you understand that?

A. No.

Q. Well, the paternity test came back over 99 percent proof positive that my client is the father. We just need to set the amount of child support today.

A. Well - what did I score?

Catherine adds: "Immediately following the answer on line 14, Judge Kiser left the courtroom without a word, followed in quick succession by the court reporter and both lawyers. Once composure had been regained by all in chambers, a suggestion was made that the mother be informed the Court now had some concerns that she might not be the mother. Ms. Kibbey declined on the grounds that the mother might believe her.

September 29, 2009
September 1999 - From The Buchmeyer Court

Q. Did you take the defendant's deposition?

A. Yes, I took his deposition here in the federal building in a room on the 13th floor.

Q. And was the defendant present for that deposition?

Q. Did your husband ever suggest that you answer my questions, "Not that I recall?"

A. Not that I recall.

At a detention hearing before Magistrate Judge William Sanderson:

Judge Sanderson (to witness): Do you wish to swear for affirm?

Witness: I will affirm, so help me God.

September 28, 2009
May 1990 - Many of Us Have the Same Problem Tom

Jerome Aldrich of Angleton (and a Brazoria County assistant district attorney) sent this trial excerpt with the simple observation that it "shows that prosecutor Tom Selleck (not related to the movie star of the same name) and the defense attorney, Lloyd Stansbury, wanted during jury voir dire was an UNBIASED jury."

Mr. Selleck: I certainly thank ya'll for your time and you've been very helpful to myself. Anybody that has any questions of me based on anything I've said? Okay. Thank you.

Ms. Grigsby: You're not going to use the back row?

Mr. Selleck: Well, I'm a laywer and if I talk to the back row it will take another 45 minutes.

Ms. Grigsby: You know what, I find you very attractive and I might be biased in a different sense. I'm afraid I might decide for you.

Mr. Selleck: That's a first for me I assure you, but thank you.

The Court: Counsel, you have exceeded your 45-minutes, if that helps you any.

Mr. Selleck: Thank you, Your Honor. The judge has given me my out. Thank you very much.

The Court: Mr. Stansbury.

Mr. Stansbury: Thank you, Your Honor.

Unidentified Juror: Let's see you top that.

Mr. Stansbury: I'm not even going to try.

September 25, 2009
June 1985 - Have You Ever Been in Trouble with the Law?

This excerpt from an actual deposition originally appeared in the book "I Solemnly Swear" by Houston court reporter Jerry von Sternberg (Carlton Press, 1978).

Q. Have you ever had any trouble with the law?

A. Not for no reckless driving or speeding or anything like that.

Q. Have you ever been in the penitentiary?

A. I have.

Q. What have you been in the penitentiary for?

A. For murder.

September 24, 2009
March 2002- And Then Things Went Downhill...

From Steven C. Laird of Fort Worth (Russell, Turner, Laird & Jones), a contribution from the trial of a medical negligence case. The excerpt is “the very beginning of the cross-examination of the plaintiffs’ nursing expert” ­ a “very attractive, statuesque nurse in her early 40’s.”

Q. All right. I don’t know why; but when I first took your deposition in Houston and even today, I get the feeling of how a dove must feel when my Russian blue cat is stalking it. Do you have cats?

A. I have two Abyssinians.

Q. Big ones?

A. Abyssinians, by nature or their breed, are small.

Q. Because of that, I’m going to try to find areas as long as I can —

A. I’m sorry. Can you clarify? You’re stating that I’m stalking you?

Q. I’m just saying, I feel like a dove in the backyard.

A. Yeah. Don’t be afraid.

September 23, 2009
November 2001 - The Truth Would Be Fine

From Jeff Doran of Palestine, these excerpts from his deposition of the opposing party in a will contest.

A. We went to his [the lawyer's] office.

Q. And what did he give you?

A. He gave us some papers, but I don't know what they were.

Q. Did he give you the original will?

A. I don't know if it was the original or not that's what -

The Witness: I need to talk to you for a minute.

Mr. Doran: I'm going to object.

Mr. Coe: I don't have a problem with that.

A. I just don't know how to answer it.

Q. (By Mr. Doran) Mr. Bostic, the truth would be a good idea.

A. The truth? I can't tell you the truth.

Q. All right, sir.

Mr. Coe: Objection.

A. You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?

Q. I think he's right.

Mr. Doran:  I'll pass the witness.

September 22, 2009
December 1999 - Read My Lips

From Cindy Madole of Dallas (Cindy, an attorney with International Paper, was formerly with Shank, Irwin & Concert in Dallas), this excerpt from a deposition taken years ago "in a rather heated securities fraud lawsuit" - by Bill Chaney (who was then with the Shank, Irwin firm, but who is now with Whittenburg, Whittenburg & Shaster).

Q. Do you know how much money?

A. No, not specifically.

Q. You recall testifying as to a seven or $800,000 figure concerning Roseneath yesterday?

A. Whatever the record said.

Q. You recall discussing a seven or $800,000 contribution to GRI by Roseneath?

A. And I said whatever the record said.

Q. You don't recall that right now?

A. I said whatever the record said.

Q. That's not responsive. Do you recall?

A. Read my lips.

Q. Read mine. Do you recall?

A. Look at me again, read them real careful.

Q. And read my lips carefully -

Mr. Butler (wisely): All right. Gentlemen, I guess that's about enough of this.

September 21, 2009
November 1996 - Did They Really Say That?

From John H. Spurgin, II of Austin (McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore), this excerpt from his deposition of the plaintiff in a wrongful discharge case:

Q. Did Rusty White ever attack your person? Did he ever assault you?

A. Well, he used profound (sic) language towards me.

Q. You say he used "profound language"?

A. Uh-huh.

September 18, 2009
June 1998 - How Long Were You Dead?

From Douglas M. Barlow of Beaumont, these excerpts from the voir dire examination in a capital murder case, of a potential juror who seemed "to be an expert on death."

Q. Have you ever been arrested for anything else, Mr. Clay?

A. Well, I had a hotel and this guy came in the hotel and cleaned the hotel, stole everything in the hotel; and we went [and] sold it to someone. And this is the point: I was in jail already when they did sold it.

Q. For what?

A. I don't recall. Because I used to help, you know, help the police department out.

Q. Undercover work?

A. Yeah, a little bit something like that. Kind of dangerous, you know. I like that, you know - I got killed one time.

Q. You did?

A. Uh-huh. In New Orleans. Some people killed me and what happened, they got a implant inside of me, inside of my temple; and what that implant is is the one thing that keep me alive. And I'm worth about $4 billion to the United States as long as I can stay alive with that thing inside of me ...

Q. Okay. How did you get killed?

A. I was in New Orleans and I was on the street and I was moving, you know, just going around and a bunch of people, about five of them, killed me, you know.

Q. How did they kill you, shoot you?

A. Beat the heck out of me and tore my head off. Got another face on me. They fix it back up, you know.

Q. How long were you dead?

A. You can find out from the hospital how long I was dead.

Q. But you don't know?

A. No, I don't know. I was dead.

Q. I understand. So, you've been in jail twice?

A. Quite a few times but not for - not for doing nothing wrong. Defending myself.

September 17, 2009
November 1997 - Al Ellis ... In Print Again!

From Al Ellis of Dallas (Al is now at Howie & Sweeney, and he claims to be getting a regular paycheck), this two-fer he submitted first by phone, and later by this letter:

Dear Jerry:

If it weren't for the humor in this business, we would all be babbling (sic) idiots.

In the same trial in which the juror answered the question in my jury questionnaire as follows:

Q. Do you think jury awards are ___ too high, ___ about right, ___ too low?

A. Too low. $8 barely covers our parking and leaves very little on which to eat lunch.

We find the following medical report from one of our more prominent orthopedic surgeons in Dallas:

While asleep, Dr. _____ carefully explored the patient's prior graft donor site.

Obviously, this is either the greatest orthopedic surgeon in the world in that he can perform surgeries in his sleep or he may be one we all wish to avoid. Looking forward to seeing my name in print again, as I continue in my all-out efforts to provide fodder for the et cetera fire.

September 16, 2009
November 1996 - Classic Typos

From "anonymous" in Houston, a form from "a local nursing facility" which contained this handwritten explanation of the reason for termination of an employee:

Reason for Separation: Miss Gross Conduct.

Anonymous suggests that "perhaps there should be a 'Miss Gross Conduct' Pageant."

September 15, 2009
September 1995 - Did They Really Say That?

From Judge David V. Wilson of Lufkin (217th District Court), this excerpt from a temporary hearing to establish paternity. Judge Wilson sets the scene: "The attorney fro the wife, without objection from the husband's attorney, brought out some evidence about the husband physically abusing her (which was totally irrelevant to the subject matter of the hearing). In rebuttal, the husband's attorney called him back to the witness stand" and asked:

Q. Mr. Jones, you heard the testimony from your wife in this matter, Ms. Smith, about physical abuse by you. Has there been physical abuse by you toward her?

A. Oh, sure; normal stuff. Anybody that's ever been married knows what that is.

Q. Tell the court about it.

A. Just her tempers and mine -

Judge Wilson: [muffled laughter] I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I need to take a recess. Let's take about a five-minute recess.

September 14, 2009
October 1992 - Did I Really Ask That?

From Wayne Tolivar of Gilmer, this excerpt from an early 1992 deposition in which James Moody of Dallas (Strasburger & Price) is questioning Wayne's "client about the operation of the family dairy business."

A. No. You have cow records. You know when they have their calf and when they're put into the barn to milk, and when they turn dry and are put out to pasture...

Q. Turned dry, what does that mean?

A. They're ready to have their rest period before they have their calf.

Q. Are all cows female?

A. I guess.

Mr. Toliver: All cows are female, yes.

Mr. Moody: I mean all cows they have?

Mr. Toliver: All bulls are male, too.

Mr. Moody: I'm sorry, I think of cows as being...

Mr. Gage: Cattle.

Q. Cattle is the big group; cows are the females. You can't tell I'm from Dallas? Y'all didn't milk any bulls did you?

A. No, they came through the barn, but they didn't get milked.

September 11, 2009
May 1994 - Ask a Written Question

From Jerry W. Corbin of Denver City, who represented the plaintiff in an automobile accident case along with Steve Clark of Andrews, this excerpt from written interrogatories submitted to a doctor - who was "a little more than upset with lawyers in general and this case in particular":

Q. Doctor, please explain the difference between objective and subjective complaints.

A. A lot.

Q. Doctor, aren't some examples of subjective symptoms or complaints such as pain, numbness, tingling, and stiffness?

A. Could be.

Q. Doctor, as a physician, do you accept the plaintiff's word that he has subjective complaints such as pain, numbness, tingling, and stiffness, and don't you have to rely upon what he tells you about those subjective complaints?

A. I reckon. It's a stupid question.

Q. Doctor, have you not had patients in the past who have exaggerated or misstated their subjective complaints?

A. Mostly I've just - could be. Mostly I've had stupid questions coming from attorneys.

Q. Doctor, are you aware of studies that indicate that persons who have pending litigation as a group take longer to improve than others?

A. I can't quote those studies, nothing here to verify that.

Q. Doctor what is "secondary gain" or "malingering"?

A. Kind of like being an attorney.

September 10, 2009
November 2000 - And Were You Successful?

From Marcus D. Taylor of Quitman, the Criminal District Attorney of Wood County, this excerpt from the direct examination of the defendant in a criminal sexual assault case - who had returned home at 7:00 o'clock in the morning, and was avoiding telling his wife "exactly" what he had done.

Q. And what did you do at that point?

A. My wife followed me back [to the bedroom] griping at me for being gone so long.

Q. All right. Did you tell her?

A. No, I couldn't.

Q. What did you do at that point?

A. I tried to hang myself in my closet.

Q. Okay. Were you successful? Obviously, not.

A. No.

September 09, 2009
October 2000 - Did They Really Say That?

From Carlos R. Soltero of Austin, these excerpts from the deposition of the husband/plaintiff in a wrongful death case.

Q. What is your understanding as to why she died?

A. It's a very easy question. It was just her time to die, and that's that.

Q. And why have you brought this lawsuit? ...

A. I don't have a lawyer for that. My - my- my children were the ones that talked to this man ...

Q. But you, personally, Mr. Benito Hipolito, how has your life changed as a result of your wife, Rosa, passing away?

A. No. Fine. I don't really miss her. Everything is fine.

A. No. She didn't pay attention to the doctors, not at all. She would rather die than stop eating well.

Q. Do you know of any medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, that your wife took in May of 1998?

A. No. No. She never took any of that. She ate everything she wanted. She didn't respect anything that they said. She would rather die. She didn't want to stop eating anything since she knew anyway she was going to die ...

Q. Do you feel like you're at peace with your wife having passed away?

A. Yes. Yeah. Why am I going to make my mind crazy?

Then, following the questioning by defense counsel, the plaintiff's attorney makes a brave, but futile attempt to rehabilitate the witness.

By Plaintiff's Attorney:

Q. Mr. Hipolito, I have just a few questions for you. When Rosa was alive, did you love her?

A. Well, yeah, when she was alive. Hey, it's - you know, when you're young, everybody has to love. You have to love each other. When you get old, the love kind of goes away.

Q. But do you still wish that Rosa was alive?

A. Of course. you don't wish death on anybody. Those are things that God imposes, that God wills to happen.

September 08, 2009
October 1998 - I Hear Voices But ...

From Charles Zamora of Columbus, Ohio (Charles is also licensed in Texas), this excerpt from his deposition of the plaintiff in a workers' compensation case.

Q. So it's your testimony then that you are still having hallucinations?

A. Yes.

Q. Okay. What about your hearing problems that you had? Do you still have hearing problems?

A. Just I hear voices every now and then ...

Q. What kind of voices?

A. I hear people talking to me every now and then ...

Q. What do the voices tell you?

A. They - like they tell me to get mad, and, you know, like when you are asking me questions, not to answer you. That's why a lot of the times I can't remember the dates and the times.

September 04, 2009
September 2000 - The Jury Selection

From Timothy M. Quill of Missouri City, this voir dire story from a capital murder case that Tim tried in Houston. In her answers to the lengthy jury questionnaire, "one lady indicated that she and her husband were in the process of divorce, a proceeding which the husband had initiated, and about which she sounded quite bitter." Then later in her questionnaire:

What are your spouse's hobbies, favorite recreations, or pastimes?
Drinking and adultery

September 03, 2009
September 1999 - Voir Dire is Like a Box of Chocolates: You Never Know What You're Going to Get

From Crawford Long of Waco (Crawford is the first assistant district attorney of the Criminal District Attorney's Office of McLennan County), this excerpt from voir dire in a murder trial in the 54th District Court in Waco. The title to this contribution was also submitted by Crawford, who explains that the "prosecutor, who will remain nameless, is said to have a distinctive southern drawl."

Juror: May I ask you a question?

Prosecutor: Sure you may.

Juror: Is Forrest Gump your brother? You know you talk like him, don't you?

Prosecutor: You know I am never going to live this down. All I can say if I am, as far as Forrest Gump Shrimp Company, I hope he leaves it in his will to me.

September 02, 2009
November 1997 - Did They Really Say That?

From Andrew H. Petty of Houston (Alsup & Petty), this paragraph from a discovery request:

Request For Production No. 19
Please produce all documents Defendant destroyed which relate to matters in Plaintiff's Original Complaint.

September 01, 2009
October 1995 - Those Witnesses

Raise Your Right Hand
Q. Do you understand what you are to swear to?
A. Yes, sir. I am to swear and tell the truth.
Q. That's right. And do you know what will happen if you don't tell the truth?
A. Well, your honor, I expect the other side will win the case.

Do the Preliminary Stuff First
Q. Mrs. Jones, is your appearance this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
A. No. This is how I dress when I go to work.

Q. Mrs. Bates, where do you live?
A. Mexia, Texas.
Q. Have you lived in Mexia all of your life?
A. Not yet.

Q. Are you married?
A. No, I'm divorced.
Q. What did your husband do before you divorced him?
A. A lot of things that I don't know about.

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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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