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Kindergarten is the time when 5- and 6-year-olds learn some important life skills, such as how to print their full names, how to share and take turns, and how to get along with others. Lawyers practicing in Texas are way past kindergarten, but U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin said in a recent order that he feels like he is supervising kindergarten because lawyers involved in a civil suit in his court are acting like they never learned how to get along with others. Sparks didn’t send the lawyers back to kindergarten, but he did threaten to order the parties in Klein-Becker, LLC, et al. v. William Stanley, et al. to find new lawyers “if the lawyers in this case do not change, immediately, their manner of practice and start conducting themselves as competent to practice in the federal court.” Sparks wrote that the lawyers in the suit have earned his “disgust” because of a history of filings and antagonistic motions full of personal insults requiring multiple discovery hearings. A day after he was asked to referee a dispute at a deposition, Sparks signed the order asking the lawyers to improve their behavior. “The Court simply wants to scream to these lawyers, ‘Get a life’ or ‘Do you have any other cases?’ or ‘When is the last time you registered for anger management classes?’” Sparks wrote in the order. Due to its spicy language, the order is making the e-mail circuit around the Texas legal community. “It was an entertaining order,” says William Davidson, a shareholder in Austin’s Minter, Joseph & Thornhill who is local counsel on the defense side in Klein-Becker and says he was not at the deposition on July 20. Because the case is ongoing, Davidson declines to comment on the behavior of any of the lawyers. So does Richard Milvenan, a partner in McGinnis Lochridge & Kilgore who is local counsel on the plaintiffs’ side. “I’m so uninvolved in this case,” he says. But the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Irwin Gilbert, a partner in Gilbert/Rothman in West Palm Beach, Fla., says, “Judge Sparks has responded appropriately, and believe it or not, proportionally to the conduct he has experienced.” Gilbert says most of the lawyers in the suit are professional, but he acknowledges that he “felt ambushed” at the deposition when the lead defense lawyer, Washington, D.C.’s Jonathan Bender, unexpectedly wanted to limit the length of the deposition. Bender, of the Law Office of Jonathan Bender, did not return two telephone messages before press time. Gilbert says he will endeavor not to disappoint Sparks. “I regret very, very much being part of a case that produced an order like that. I certainly hear the judge loud and clear and I’m doing what I can to comport with the order and I believe that my colleagues are as well. There are some very, very professional people [on both sides] involved in this case,” he says. Vinson & Elkins also is on the defense team, but Christopher Peele, an associate in Austin, also did not return two telephone messages.
ORDER Be it remembered on the 21st day of July 2004 and the Court took time to make its daily review of the above-captioned case, and thereafter, enters the following: When the undersigned accepted the appointment from the President of the United States of the position now held, he was ready to face the daily practice of law in federal courts with presumably competent lawyers. No one warned the undersigned that in many instances his responsibility would be the same as a person who supervised kindergarten. Frankly, the undersigned would guess the lawyers in this case did not attend kindergarten as they never learned how to get along well with others. Notwithstanding the history of filings and antagonistic motions full of personal insults and requiting multiple discovery hearings, earning the disgust of this Court, the lawyers continue ad infinitum. On July 20, 2004, the Court’s schedule was interrupted by an emergency motion so the parties’ deposition, which began on July 20, would and could proceed until 6:30 in the evening. No intelligent discussion of the issue was accomplished prior to the filing and service of the motion, even though the lawyers were in the same room. Over a telephone conference, the lawyers, of course, had inconsistent statements as to the support of their positions. On July 20, 2004, the Court entered an order allowing the plaintiffs/counter-defendants until July 23, 2004 two days from today to answer a counterclaim. Yet, on July 21, 2004, Bodyworx.com, Inc.’s lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration of that Court order arguing the pleadings should have been filed by July 19, 2004. The Court simply wants to scream to these lawyers, “Get a life” or “Do you have any other cases?” or “When is the last time you registered for anger management classes?” Neither the world’s problems nor this case will be determined by an answer to a counterclaim, which is four days late, even with the approval of the presiding judge. If the lawyers in this case do not change, immediately, their manner of practice and start conducting themselves as competent to practice in the federal court, the Court will contemplate and may enter an order requiring the parties to obtain new counsel. In the event it is not clear from the above discussion, the Motion for Reconsideration is denied. Signed this the 21st day of July 2004. Sam Sparks United States District Judge

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