It's fortunate for the Honorable Gregory A. Presnell, a United States District Court Judge of the Middle District of Florida, that federal judges have life tenure. Appointed in 2000, by President William Jefferson Clinton, Judge Presnell has been the subject of national attention, and considerable public ridicule, as a result of a decision made by him in the case of Avista Management, Inc. v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company.
Unable to reach an agreement as to location of a deposition (pretrial questioning of a witness under oath), the parties asked the court to decide the dispute. Rather than resolve the matter, on June 6, 2006, the court directed the attorneys to employ a rather unorthodox decision-making alternative: the game of "rock, paper, scissors."
In sum and substance, Judge Presnell required the advocates to meet on June 30, 2006, at 4:00 PM, at a "neutral site agreeable to both parties." Once assembled, the attorneys are to engage in one game of "rock, paper, scissors," with the victor entitled to select the deposition's location.
Just in case it's been a while since you've last played the game, here are ground rules:
Rock wins against Scissors.
Scissors wins against Paper.
Paper wins against Rock.In response to Judge Presnell's Order, a representative of the USA Rock Paper Scissors League commented, "When someone uses rock, paper, scissors to adjudicate any kind of dispute that is a positive moment for the world."
We don't agree. With the mounting public dissatisfaction with trial judges, attorneys, and the escalating costs and increasing delays that have become part and parcel of litigation, it serves no legitimate purpose to make a mockery of the process or its participants. To say nothing of the ethically questionable nature of the judge's conduct.
All federal court judges are expected to comply with a "Code of Conduct," which provides that judges must "uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary," and, "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety." These high standards were promulgated to instill and preserve public confidence in the judiciary. We don't believe those goals were furthered by Judge Presnell's June 6, 2006 Order in any meaningful or positive way.
Yes, some lawyers can be stubborn, if not downright annoying, but there are an array of remedies and procedures in place (like monetary penalties or "sanctions") that can be used to reign them in. Relegating the practice of law and the role of the judiciary to "child's play," is an affront to us all.
For a copy of Judge Presnell's Order, please click on the following link:
Avista Management, Inc. v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company
For a copy of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, please click on the following link: