U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin recently has gotten plenty of attention on blogs for writing orders chastising lawyers for their behavior. But he also has received some criticism himself over those orders from Edith Jones, chief judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees the federal courts in the Lone Star State.
An email Jones sent to Sparks and judges in the Western District of Texas on Aug. 30 took the Austin trial court judge to task for the sharply worded orders. [See a Sparks order in the case.]
One of those orders, which came out on Aug. 26,invited a pair of lawyers involved in a subpoena dispute to a “kindergarten party.” Jones’ email reads as follows:
“Dear Sam, It has not escaped my attention, or that of my colleagues or, I am told, nationally known blog sites that you have issued several ‘cute’ orders in the past few weeks. The order attached below is the most recent. Frankly, this kind of rhetoric is not funny. In fact, it is so caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous that it casts more disrespect on the judiciary than on the now-besmirched reputation of the counsel. It suggests either that the judge is simply indulging himself at the expense of counsel or that he is fighting with counsel in what, as Judge Gee used to say, is surely not a fair contest. It suggests bias against counsel. No doubt, none of us has been consistently above reproach in our professional communications with counsel. We are all prone to human error. But no judge who writes an order should allow such rhetoric to overcome common sense. Ultimately, this kind of excess, as I noted, reflects badly on all of us. I urge you to think before you write. Sincerely, Edith Jones.”
Sparks was out of town and could not be reached for immediate comment about the email. Jones declines comment on the substance of the email but says she was “saddened” that it had been released to others, including Texas Lawyer.
“It’s an internal matter,” Jones says. “And I’m saddened that somebody breached the intended limited scope of the intended distribution.”