1. Cut and Paste in Haste – Leaves Judge with Bad Taste

  • Photo of a judge

    Judge reduced lawyer's fees from $180,000 to $26,000, in part because:

    "Thanks to careless cutting and pasting from [an order in an unrelated case], the proposed order (with still uncorrected misspellings):

    • recited the wrong amount of [the plaintiff's] judgment and
    • orders three strangers to this action to pay attorneys' fees and costs."

    2. Everyone's Laughing – But Not the Unhappy Client

  • Photo of an embarrassed and angry client

    Lawyer's demand letter read:

    "Your client signed the restrictive covenant in the agreement of purchase and sale, but has apparently opened a similar business two blocks away. I must insist that your client decease and desist from carrying on the business."

    Everyone howled with laughter, except the embarrassed (and angry) client.

    • The opposing lawyer and her client read the letter.
    • The letter became part of the court record and the judge commented on it.
    • The letter was circulated to the local legal community.

3. Memo to the Team – Really?

"We will need to prepare the DPR and RPP, relying on the information in the BIPs from each RO and HQ, and focusing on funding for IMET, SA, COCFP, and JPIP, and table it before the P&PC and the EC before the end of the month."

  • DPR: Departmental Performance Reports
  • RPP: Report on Plans and Priorities
  • BIP: Business Investment Plan
  • RO: Regional Office
  • HQ: Headquarters
  • IMET: Integrated Market Enforcement Teams
  • SA: Special Advocates
  • COCFP: Court Ordered Counsel in Federal Prosecutions
  • JPIP: Justice Partnership and Innovation Fund
  • P&PC: Plans and Priorities Committee
  • EC: Executive Committee

4. An "Acronymous Brief" Abandons Plain English

  • Photo of a judge

    "Here, both parties abandoned any attempt to write in plain English, instead abbreviating every conceivable agency and statute involved, familiar or not, and littering their briefs with references to "SNF," "HLW," "NWF," "NWPA," and "BRC" – shorthand for "spent nuclear fuel," "high level radioactive waste," the "Nuclear Waste Fund," the Nuclear Waste Policy Act," and the "Blue Ribbon Commission."" Senior Circuit Judge Silberman


5. Motion Denied for Incomprehensibility

The title to the defendant's motion says it all …

Defendant's Motion to Discharge Response to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Response Opposing Objection to Discharge

And here's what Bankruptcy Judge Clark had to say:

"The court cannot determine the substance in any of the Defendant's legal arguments, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting. The Defendant's motion is accordingly denied for being incomprehensible."

6. A Seven-Million Dollar Uncorrectable Typing Error


Andy Warhol's estate lawyer made a promissory note payable to "Andy Warhol Enterprises Inc." instead of Andy Warhol's Estate.

Unfortunately, the company no longer existed.

The lawyer said, "It's just a typo."

But the court struck down the promissory note, which became unenforceable leaving Warhol's estate with an uncollectable $7 million note.


7. "Let Thy Speech Be Short, Comprehending Much in Few Words" (Ecclesiasticus 32:8)

  • Image of a tall stack of papers

    "Gobbledygook pleadings dismissed: .... Long, verbose, and confusing verified complaints containing a total of 165 typewritten pages and an additional 413 pages of exhibits,... combining into single counts detailed recitation of evidence and legal arguments complete with extensive citations of authority."....

  • Photo of one sentence, single spaced, taking up an entire sheet of legal paper

    "[A paragraph]... was single spaced, 'extend(ed) the full length of a legal page and constitute(d) a single sentence.'"


8. Lawyers "Caught With Their Hands in the Cookie Jar"

  • Photo of a hand pulling a cookie out of a cookie jar

    Judge fines lawyers $1,000 for using "typographical techniques" to disguise the bald fact that their brief went beyond the court's page limit.

    "We expect counsel to respond to our orders by complying rather than seeking ways to evade them. ... The lawyers, caught with their hands in the cookie jar, have apologized and promised not to play the same trick on us again."


9. Inclusive or Exclusive: See the Difference Two Letters Make

  • The word inclusive mirrored by the word exclusive

    From The Boston Globe:

    "The high-powered firm is suddenly at the center of the drama because of work done by its lawyers. At issue is the wording of a document signed by both McCourts six years ago. According to media reports, three copies of the marital property agreement use the word "inclusive," which would make Frank McCourt the sole owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and three copies say "exclusive," which would make Jamie McCourt the co-owner of the venerable Major League Baseball franchise."