Call us old fashioned, but we believe there are some lines that should never be crossed.
Stand-up comics shouldn't act like "judges," and vice versa.
There's also a time and place for everything. In a social setting or at a public forum, there's nothing inappropriate about cracking a tasteful joke or engaging in harmless banter. But, in our opinion, such exchanges don't belong in a written opinion or order. That kind of of cavalier behavior just doesn't sit right with us. In our view, attempts at comedy within judicial opinions butress the impression that the court is not responding to the litigants' concerns in a manner that can be considered fair and impartial.
In February 2006, the Honorable Leif M. Clark, a United States Bankruptcy Court Judge of the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, denied a motion made by the debtor (within the context of an adversary proceeding) in a pretty unique way. Here's how the decision reads:
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR INCOMPREHENSIBILITY
Before the court is a motion entitled "Defendant's Motion to Discharge Response to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Response Opposing Objection to Discharge." Doc. #7. As background, this adversary was commenced on December 14, 2005 with the filing of the plaintiff's complaint objecting to the debtor's discharge. (Doc. #1). Defendant answered the complaint on January 12, 2006. Doc. #3. Plaintiff responded to the Defendant's answer on January 26, 2006. Doc. #6. On February 3, 2006, Defendant filed the above entitled motion. The court cannot determine the substance, if any, of the Defendant's legal argument, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting. The Defendant's motion is accordingly denied for being incomprehensible.
Not too bad, right? We have all received papers from an adversary that were virtually unfathamable. So, we thought the denial was pretty creative. It's the accompanying footnote that took us for a loop:
Or, in the words of the competition judge to Adam Sandler's title character in the movie, "Billy Madison," after
Billy Madison had responded to a question with an answer that sounded superficially reasonable but lacked any
Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Deciphering motions like the one presented here wastes valuable chamber staff time, and invites this sort of footnote.While the motion may have deserved an unfavorable reception, the court's footnote struck us as a prime example of "the pot calling the kettle black." In our opinion, the insults were needless, unjustifable, and exceeded the bounds of appropriate judicial conduct.
Judge Clark, you may want to consider turning over a new leaf.
For a copy of the Bankrupty Court's order in the Matter of Richard Willis King, please click on the following link:
Order Denying Motion for Incomprehensibility