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A U.S. District Court trial in Connecticut was the setting for some interesting legal tactics recently, as a litigator used excessive courtroom drama and the “F” word, catching the attention of not only the jury, but also the presiding judge. In Cheryl Wambolt Bryan v. Town of East Haven, Judge Robert Chatigny got an earful during plaintiff attorney William Palmieri’s redirect cross-examination of an East Haven, Conn., police officer. Four officers were named in the case for allegedly using excessive force against a woman they claimed interfered with them and shouted obscenities when they tried to arrest her for failing to stop her vehicle when asked. After Hugh Keefe, of Lynch, Traub, Keefe & Errante, finished questioning one of his witnesses — an East Haven police officer named in the suit — Palmieri, of Williams & Pattis, shocked the courtroom with his loud and unexpected line of questioning. According to court transcripts, Palmieri, who represents plaintiff Wambolt Bryan, began his cross-examination by yelling “F— you! Go f— yourself!” to the officer. He followed by asking the cop, “That’s pretty disrespectful, isn’t it?” After the officer responded, “Yes, sir” to Palmieri’s question, Palmieri responded: “You said to the judge (Chatigny) you didn’t want to disrespect anybody here by saying ‘f— you,’ isn’t that right?” Keefe objected to the question by saying, “Your honor, I don’t think this is necessary. You know, this is obscene.” Palmieri then confirmed that the plaintiff had said those same words to the officer and added to the officer, “You don’t like it when people tell you to go f— yourself, do you?” Then, trying to get the officer to admit he was angered by the plaintiff’s rough words to him on the night in question, Palmieri further pushed the court’s buttons by asking the witness in different ways if those words “pissed him off.” “Your honor,” Keefe said, trying to get in his objections over Palmieri’s loud questioning. “Excuse me, your honor,” Keefe said to the judge, “does it piss you off?” Not long after Keefe’s comments, Chatigny excused the jury and then the witness. “And I’ll see counsel in my chambers,” Chatigny said. Palmieri, who later lost the case, said he was trying to make an obvious point that such harsh words could make people, like police, forget about the law. “I think ultimately my client suffered,” Palmieri said. “My tactic was to show that the police officer’s sensibilities were offended when he roughly took my client into custody.” Palmieri said that although the constitution “protects your right to shout ‘f—’ in a courtroom,” the nature of the language proved to be even too much for Chatigny, who halted the trial to chastise Palmieri. “The court being so shocked by the language demonstrated to the jury that it’s OK to put aside the law when you’ve heard ‘the word’ and that is absolutely not okay,” Palmieri said.

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