Adam Sandler and Legal Writing
March 08, 2006 at 1:05 PM
Occasionally, attorneys submit a motion or a brief that is so badly written or poorly researched that the judge decides to scold them for their horrible research or writing skills in a written opinion. I like to collect examples of these public reprimands for my legal research class, so that students can see that one of the negative consequences of inadequate legal research is the possibility that your incompetence will be forever memorialized in a court opinion for the whole world to see. Of course, the goal of avoiding potential harm to your clients is a far more worthy reason to hone your legal research skills than the threat of ridicule from a judge. But the threat of public humiliation seems to work as a motivator, too, so I like to highlight a few of these opinions for students whenever I can. That’s why I was pleased to discover this great quotation from a February 21 order penned by Judge Leif Clark of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas (thanks to Out of the Jungle for featuring the quote). Judge Clark wrote, "[t]he court cannot determine the substance, if any, of the Defendant’s legal argument, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting." As if this comment wasn’t enough, Judge Clark went on to quote a character from an Adam Sandler film, "Billy Madison," in a footnote: "At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought." Ouch. If you’d like to find out more about these judicial tongue-lashings, read Mary Whisner’s excellent article on this topic, "When Judges Scold Lawyers."