Welcome to my review of interesting events in law, literature and film.


1. Uncivil Litigation



Most lawyers conduct themselves in a civil, professional manner. A few do not. This case out of the Northern District of Texas is an example of the latter. The offending lawyers won a jury verdict in favor of their client, but their behavior was so egregious, the Fifth Circuit reversed the Judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.

Among the remarks made during closing arguments were these gems:

“I don’t care if I was half-blind or half-lame, I would have found the strength to kick his ass.”

The expert witness was referred to as a “paid prostitute.” Opposing counsel was called “low class” and “disgusting.”

The opinion from the Fifth Circuit, in remanding the case for a new trial, stated: “In this case, repeated improper statements…… abandoned all ‘dignity, honor and decorum.’”

I’m more than a little surprised that the jury returned a verdict in favor of the party with the offensive lawyer.

I tried a case in San Antonio many years ago against a lawyer who shall remain nameless. He was a complete jackass during discovery — belittling, arrogant, demeaning. I knew that if he displayed those same traits at trial, I could use it to my advantage. He was unable to control himself. In closing arguments, he offered similar comments about me and my client. He called me an “ambulance chaser” and my client a “low life,” a “money grubber,” and a “faker.”

The jury was so repulsed by his behavior (partly at my urging), they ruled (quite significantly) in our favor.

Maybe this is the new norm? Juries are typically a reflection of society at large. Are we so calloused to such vitriol that we look right past it? I hope not.

Here is the Fifth Circuit opinion.


2. Article of the Week


It’s not just lawyers who are behaving coarsely. Conservative Christians are getting in on the act.



You can read more here.


3. What I’m Streaming



Slow Horses is a series starring Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb, an MI5 agent who has been relegated to Slough House, the purgatorial destination for agents who have screwed up. Lamb is the foul-mouthed, foul-behaving boss of a bungling band of misfits. It is fantastic.

Here is the trailer for Season 1.


3. What I’m Reading



In my last Trial Mix, I wrote about The Liars’ Club, the wonderful memoir by Mary Karr. My son recommended another memoir that he insisted is just as compelling, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. He is right. Here is the opening line:

“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.”

That single sentence will draw you into the stunning dysfunction, adventure and brokenness of a nomadic American family as it navigates a bleak landscape. It is a story of family, poverty, alcoholism, mental illness and, ultimately, resilience. Highly recommend.



5. Legal Clip of the Week: Inherit the Wind



The Glass Castle has a few passages which contain “offensive language” and sexual innuendo. It is frequently the target of censors, which reminds me of this movie. Inherit the Wind is a courtroom drama which was based on the Scopes Monkey Trial. A young English teacher, Bertram Cates, is on trial for violating a law which prohibited the teaching of evolution. In this scene, Cates’s lawyer, Henry Drummond (played marvelously by Spencer Tracy) conducts a masterful cross examination of the Biblical scholar, Matthew Harrison Brady. Not only does Drummond expose the fallacy of Creationism, but he also presents a thesis where Creationism and Evolution can co-exist. Click here for the link.

Episode 7 is complete. Many thanks for reading and feel free to reach out with any comments, questions or suggestions.