Another Ornery Texas Judge Named Sam

What is it about Texas federal district court judges named “Sam” that makes them so ornery? First, we had the notorious U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent from San Antonio (see here, here, here, and here). Now U.S. District Judge Samuel Sparks from Austin (see here and here) comes along to fill the void.

Regrettably, while most law schools do a good job screening and training students, some students manage to graduate from and pass state bar exams who lack competent skills. Not knowing the actors, we have no basis for arguing with Judge Sparks’ evaluation of the lawyer named (we left him unnamed) in the order below, but bludgeoning him so harshly in a permanent public record seems over the top (some paragraph breaks inserted):

The Court has already turned down two extremely tempting offers to transform this case from a boring old federal lawsuit into an exciting, politically-charged media circus. As any competent attorney could have predicted, the Court declines the latest invitation as well.

However, the Court is forced to conclude [name omitted], the attorney whose signature appears on this motion, is anything but competent. A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant; and if he foolishly did both things, he surely would not be so unprofessional as to file such exhibits unsealed.

A competent attorney who did those things would be deliberately disrespecting this Court and knowingly shirking his professional responsibilities, offenses for which he would be lucky to retain his bar card, much less an intact bank balance.

For [name omitted]’s sake, and because the Court has no time to hold a sanctions hearing—in part because it must take time out of deciding the actual legal issues in this case to address the self-serving entreaties of attention-seekers like [name omitted]—the Court assumes [name omitted] is as incompetent as he appears.  Rather than sanction him, the Court simply does what [name omitted] would have done if he was a competent professional, and seals attachment 7 to his motion.

I have no problem with judges dressing down lawyers in a very direct way when they deserve it. In fact, I wish more judges would do it. But putting such a personal attack in a written order that will last forever may not be the best way to go.

–Order, Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey, Case No. A-11-Ca-486-S (W.D. Tex., Aug. 22, 2011). Thanks to Gaspar Forteza.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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