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In these cyber-pages, we’ve chronicled great feats of benchslappery by U.S. District Court Judges Kent and Sparks, Texas Supreme Court Justice Willett, and even documented the contempt-slapping of one particularly self-loving lawyer.

We have yet to come across a federal appellate benchslapping against a litigant–that is, until now. And, as an added bonus, this rebuke came courtesy of a per curiam opinion by three Fifth Circuit judges.

In the circuit court’s decision last week in Hartz v. Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund, No. 07-30506 slip op. at 13-14 (5th Cir. Apr. 16, 2008 ), the unfortunate yet apparently deserving Mr. Roger Phipps received just such a [dis]honor.

The panel devoted an entire subheading to chiding Mr. Phipps for conduct:

E. Roger Phipps’ Conduct

Finally, and completely separate and apart from the issues raised on appeal, we would be remiss if we did not comment on the conduct of Roger Phipps, counsel for Hartz, during oral argument in this case on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. Phipps’ conduct towards the Court during argument was unprofessional. Even more serious was his admission that during his work on the case (including his preparation for argument), he had not read a key Supreme Court case. His cavalier disregard for his client’s interest and for his obligation to the Court was both troubling and disgraceful.

Accordingly, we are ordering Phipps to provide his client, Hartz, a copy of our opinion immediately after it is released. In order to ensure compliance, we are further directing him to supply our Court with proof of service.

Id. at 13-14. The conduct the circuit court found so objectionable included this exchange between counsel and the panel:

Phipps: . . . so that’s about all I have to say, Your Honor. I don’t have anything other than that. You know, my client lives in Chicago. … She continues to earn a living, and she’s generally unavailable if you call her because she, she’s sort of a traveling doctor.

Judge: That’s not much of thing you come in here and tell us, I guess.

Phipps: Well, my attitude is, the [district court] judge got it right . . . . And as far as whether even Ricks should apply, I don’t think it should.

Judge: What do you do about Morgan?

Phipps: I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know Morgan, Your Honor.

Judge: You don’t know Morgan?

Phipps: Nope.

Judge: You haven’t read it?

Phipps: I try not to read that many cases, your Honor. Ricks is the only one I read. Oh, Ledbetter, I read Ledbetter, and I read that one that they brought up last night. I don’t know if that’s not Ledbetter, I can’t remember the name of it. Ricks is the one that I go by; it’s my North star. Either it applies or it doesn’t apply. I don’t think it applies.

Judge: I must say, Morgan is a case that is directly relevant to this case. And for you representing the Plaintiff to get up here—it’s a Supreme Court case—and say you haven’t read it. Where did they teach you that?

Phipps: They didn’t teach me much, Your Honor.

Judge: At Tulane, is it?

Phipps: Loyola.

Judge: Okay. Well, I must say, that may be an all[-]time first.

Phipps: That’s why I wore a suit today, Your Honor.

Judge: Alright. We’ve got your attitude, anyway.

Id. at 14 n. 4.

At least he didn’t attempt any explanatory hand signals.

Thx to the Legal Profession Blog, Above the Law, and SCOTX Blog

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