Step one in any litigation is actually knowing who you’re appearing in front of. Well, not really. Step one is probably advising a potential client of his or her rights and executing a retainer agreement, but knowing who you’re appearing in front of is high up on the list.
In the Southern District of Texas, attorneys for plaintiffs Marvin and Shirley Williams in their lawsuit against Avon failed to clear this important hurdle, addressing a draft motion to Judge Keith Ellison even though the case will be heard by Judge Andrew Edison. It’s an understandable mistake, except they spell and pronounce their names differently.
Rather than flying off the handle at the error as some more egocentric trial court judges have been known to do, Judge Edison responded with a gentle but firm benchslap with a heavy dose of self-deprecation:
Plaintiff’s counsel prepared this draft order and obviously confused me with U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison. I appreciate the compliment, but want to make sure the parties understand that Judge Ellison and I are two completely different people. Judge Ellison clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court; I once visited the Supreme Court on a tour. Judge Ellison was a Rhodes Scholar; my mom thinks I should have been a Rhodes Scholar. Judge Ellison graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard; I don’t know what those big Latin words mean.
Along the way to granting the motion, Judge Edison even offered some free writing advice about the importance of getting to the point in writing with an extreme markup of the draft.
A tip of the hat to Judge Edison for showing us all that just because judges have an important job, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a sense of humor about themselves.
(Check out the order on the next page.)
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.
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