Texas Federal Judge Orders Lawyers to “Get a Life”

Strange Judicial Opinions Judge Sam Sparks

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks does not enjoy lawyers he perceives as having kindergarten skill-sets.

In 2011, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, Western District of Texas, got in trouble with his bosses at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for ordering the lawyers in a case to attend a kindergarten party.  It wasn’t the first time Judge Sparks used kindergarten references to berate lawyers.

In a 2004 case called Klein-Becker, LLC v. Stanley, Judge Sparks expressed his “disgust” with squabbling among the lawyers in a barrage that began with his expressing doubt as to whether the lawyers had ever attended kindergarten and ended by telling him them to “get a life” (some paragraph breaks inserted):

When the undersigned accepted the appointment from the President of the United States of the position now held, he was read to face the daily practice of law in federal courts with presumably competent lawyers. No one warned the undersigned that in many instances his responsibility would be the same as a person who supervised kindergarten.

Frankly, the undersigned would guess the lawyers in this case did not attend kindergarten as they never learned how to get along well with others. Notwithstanding the history of filings and antagonistic motions full of personal insults and requiring multiple discovery hearings, earning the disgust of the this Court, the lawyers continue ad infinitum.

[Court recounts current dispute in which, despite the court’s order allowing a pleading to be filed on July 23, 2004, defendants’ counsel filed a motion for reconsideration, claiming the pleading should have been filed July 19.]

The Court simply wants to scream to these lawyers, “Get a life” or “Do you have any other cases?” or “When is the last time you registered for anger management classes?”

Neither the world’s problems nor this case will be determined by a … [pleading] which is four days later, even with the approval of the presiding judge.

If the lawyers in this case do not change, immediately, their manner of practice and start conducting themselves as competent to practice in the federal court, the Court will contemplate and may enter an order requiring the parties to obtain new counsel.

Judge Sparks wrapped up by saying that if it wasn’t already clear from the tone of the order, the motion for reconsideration was denied. Hmm, I think he was pretty clear.

Klein-Becker, LLC v. Stanley, Case No. A-03-CA-871-SS, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19107, at *4–6 (W.D. Tex. July 21, 2004). Thanks to Michael Barclay.

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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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