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Judge Sets Mandatory Civility Course for Lawyers on Holiday Weekend Sunday, Says to Bring ‘Jammies’

Posted Sep 2, 2011 2:57 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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It didn't take long for another jurist to top a mandatory "kindergarten party" invitation made by a federal judge in Texas to apparently squabbling attorneys.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks scheduled the kindergarten party (since canceled) in his Austin courtroom on Sept. 1, a Thursday.

But Del. Superior Court Judge Peggy Ableman scheduled a mandatory civility course for warring counsel in asbestos litigation at 10 a.m. on Sunday, in the middle of a holiday weekend.

In a Sept. 1 letter provided by Above the Law, she advises the lawyers, who apparently include some out-of-state counsel admitted pro hac vice, to "bring sleeping bags, toothbrushes, teddy bears and jammies," noting in a footnote that this would appear to be the appropriate attire given "the childish level to which this litigation has stooped."

While the last-minute invite likely will disrupt lawyers' plans for the Labor Day weekend, the same is true of her own holiday plans, the judge notes.

As to what sparked the unusual event, several topics to be addressed at the " 'special' emergency refresher course in first-year ethics and civility" offer some hints.

They include: Consequences of making knowing misrepresentations to the court, including the possibility that out-of-state lawyers will not be be permitted to appear before the court pro hac vice, and "why it is not professional to whine or complain, either publicly or privately, about the amount of work that this court requires or that asbestos litigation entails, particularly in light of the excessively large amount of fees generated by this litigation."

A prior settlement might reduce or eliminate the need for remedial education, or permit the civility course to be held later on a more convenient date, the judge indicates.

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