Anyone who’s ever had occasion to read a ruling from Richard Leon, the Washington federal trial judge, has probably run into an exclamation point somewhere along the line, standing there, starkly, at the end of a sentence.

“If there ever were an antitrust case where the parties had a dramatically different assessment of the current state of the relevant market and a fundamentally different vision of its future development, this is the one. Small wonder it had to go to trial!” Leon wrote in the opening lines of his blockbuster AT&T ruling Tuesday evening.

Leon’s use of an exclamation point at the start of his 172-page ruling wasn’t lost on law professor Orin Kerr:

Overall, Leon used at least 19 exclamation points in his AT&T decision, which upheld the company’s $85 billion merger with Time Warner Inc.

Richard Leon

President Donald Trump, who had criticized the deal and vowed to block it, doesn’t appear in Leon’s ruling. And to be sure, Leon’s use of exclamation marks wasn’t a dig at the president, who regularly makes his points, on Twitter, with these punctuation marks.

Rather, it mirrored the president’s own punctuational proclivity! (Trump tweeted a few years ago—”Time Warner cable out AGAIN in Manhattan—no television. They have a real problem!”)

Leon’s regular use of exclamation points sets him apart from other jurists on Washington’s federal trial bench. Here are some Leon highlights from over the years!

  • “There is a very real prospect that the program will go on for as long as America is combating terrorism, which realistically could be forever!” (Klayman v. Obama, December 2013)
  • “The FDA appears to be simply wrapping itself in the flag of law enforcement discretion to justify its authority and masquerade an otherwise seemingly callous indifference to the health consequences of those imminently facing the executioner’s needle. How utterly disappointing!” (Beaty v. FDA, March 2012)
  • “Accordingly, in the agency’s view, TPSAC members who performed consulting work for such drug companies had no financial conflict of interest. Please! (Lorillard, Inc. v. FDA, July 2014)
  • “History belies the notion that this action is the first and only time that the government has found an antitrust problem with a proposed vertical merger or insisted on a structural remedy as a condition to settlement. So while it may, indeed, be a rare breed of horse, it is not exactly a unicorn!” (U.S. v. AT&T, February 2018)


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