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5th Circuit Chief Judge Tells Sparks His Caustic Orders Are Ill-Advised and Not Very Funny

Posted Sep 13, 2011 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Texas federal judge in the news lately for his sarcastic orders chastising lawyers is now himself facing criticism from the chief judge of the New Orleans-based court that hears appeals from his state.

Last month U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin invited two squabbling lawyers to a “kindergarten party” to learn discovery skills. In another case last month, Sparks called an anti-abortion lawyer “anything but competent” after the attorney submitted a picture of an aborted fetus as a court exhibit.

Chief Judge Edith Jones of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not amused. Texas Lawyer obtained a copy of an email she sent to Sparks advising him to think before he writes. “Frankly, this kind of rhetoric is not funny,” Jones wrote. “In fact, it is so caustic, demeaning and gratuitous that it casts more disrespect on the judiciary than on the now-besmirched reputation of the counsel.”

The rhetoric, Jones said, suggests that Sparks is “simply indulging himself at the expense of counsel” or that he is fighting with the lawyers. “No judge who writes an order should allow such rhetoric to overcome common sense,” she wrote.

Texas Lawyer contacted Jones, who said she was saddened that someone had released the email to the media. “It’s an internal matter,” she said.

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