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5th Circuit Oral Arguments Turn Contentious When Chief Judge Tells Colleague to Shut Up

Posted Sep 26, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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How long should one judge monopolize oral arguments? Seven minutes is too long for Chief Judge Edith Jones of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

During en banc oral arguments on Sept. 21, Jones was so perturbed by a colleague’s lengthy questioning that she told him to “shut up,” report Texas Lawyer and Above the Law.

Jones later apologized, though the oral argument recording ends before Jones is finished. But the tape did capture Jones’ impatience with her colleague, Judge James Dennis. Texas Lawyer and Above the Law both have the transcript:

Jones: Judge Dennis.

Dennis: Can I, can I ask a question?

Jones: You have monopolized, uh, uh, seven minutes.

Dennis: Well, I'm way behind on asking questions in this court. I have been quiet a lot of times and I am involved in this case.

[There is a slamming noise here; Above the Law claims it is Jones slamming her hand on the table.]

Jones: Would you like to leave?

Dennis: Pardon? What did you say?

Jones: I want you to shut up long enough for me to suggest that perhaps …

Dennis: Don't tell me to shut up.

Jones: ... you give some other judge a chance to ask a question.

Dennis: Listen. I've been in this courtroom many times and got closed out and not able to ask a question. I don't think I'm being overbearing.

Jones tells Texas Lawyer she apologized to Dennis for her “intemperate language” and he accepted the apology.

Jones had a run-in with a different judge earlier in the month. She advised U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin in an email that his sarcastic orders chastising lawyers were “caustic, demeaning and gratuitous.”

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