Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, April 04, 2008

I'm in the process of finalizing papers in a case that has been unusually contentious. This may be because I'm a jerk, but I think actually that it is because my adversary is a sociopath. We'd had something together about ten years ago, but my partner had done most of the work on the thing and I didn't really get the full brunt of his personality. This time through it's been on me like a fire hose. In one of the early depositions I blew my stack, and immediately regretted it-- even if this cat isn't doing it consciously (I doubt that he is-- he's all medulla oblongata. It isn't a tactic, it's a reflex) falling into that trap is the worst thing you can do.

What I wasn't prepared for was the magnificent awfulness of his papers. After the purple-faced shouting over the table I'm not sure what I expected. I know I wasn't expecting what we got: a sheaf a papers typed in single space, with odd, occasional CAPITALIZATION FOR EMPHASIS. I had a real hard time even reading the papers, let alone framing opposition-- I felt like I was being grabbed by the lapels and screamed at.

Because we are in federal court I keep checking the FRCP and the local rules to be sure I'm not dropping a stitch. This evening, as I reviewed them one more time before we e-file I said to my partner, "Do you suppose X--- read the rules for pro se litigants instead?" "That would explain a lot," she said. "I can just see him. 'I wonder why the rules say I can't use punctuation?'"

The hell of it is that although we have always prided ourselves on our papers- the clean, professional look and the pellucid prose that is our hallmark -- you just never know. I've been beat on worse looking papers.

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