« Good morning | Main | Firefox »

Legal submissions in crayon


Y'all writers and editors are presumably familiar with the notion of people submitting manuscripts to publishers in crayon. Here's something even better: a judge, in a legal opinion, chastising lawyers for—well, in his own words:

Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact—complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words—to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions.

With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins.

The judge, one Samuel B. Kent, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, wrote the above in the process of granting summary judgment in a case involving a seaman who had a hard time getting off of a docked vessel. But really, the facts of the case aren't particularly relevant to some of the best comments from Judge Kent, such as this in response to a case that one of the lawyers cited as a precedent:

The Court cannot even begin to comprehend why this case was selected for reference. It is almost as if Plaintiff's counsel chose the opinion by throwing long range darts at the Federal Reporter (remarkably enough hitting a nonexistent volume!).

And this may be my favorite snide comment ever in a legal document:

Now, alas, the Court must return to grownup land.

Another good line, from near the end:

After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented.

You can read the entire opinion for the case in various places online, such as the Bradshaw v. Phillips page at Tamerlane.


I also liked "Take heed and be suitably awed, oh boys and girls -- the Court was able to state the issue and its resolution in one paragraph ... despite dozens of pages of gibberish from the parties to the contrary!"

Ooh, more Samuel Kent! Thank you! I stumbled across one of his briefs a couple of years ago but hadn't seen anything from him since.

Post a comment