Law Firms

Judge says BigLaw firm essentially called him stupid in 'astounding' display of 'effrontery'

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U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay of the Northern District of Texas slammed Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and its co-counsel Wednesday for calling his interpretation of an arbitration clause “nonsensical.”

Lindsay said it was “astounding” that the lawyers “would display such effrontery to the court” and said there will be sanctions if it happens again.

Above the Law has coverage of what it labels a “benchslap.”

Gibson Dunn and its co-counsel used the word “nonsensical” in a document asking Lindsay to reconsider his refusal to strike class action allegations in a consumer lawsuit. Gibson Dunn represents defendants accused of deceptive marketing by offering free credit reports and then billing for enrollment in a credit monitoring program.

The law firm and its co-counsel argue that an arbitration agreement requires individual arbitration of all disputes and does not permit class litigation. The firms asserted that the judge’s “nonsensical” interpretation of the agreement created an “escape hatch” that allows individuals subject to arbitration to bypass the requirement by pursuing a class action.

Lindsay made his displeasure clear in two italicized paragraphs. Lindsay said he took no umbrage with an attorney disagreeing with his rulings. But he didn’t like the lawyers’ “tone” and word choice.

More specifically, Lindsay wrote: “Defendants’ attorneys’ tone and use of the word ‘nonsensical’ are ‘beyond the pale.’ The court considers the term ‘nonsensical’ to be synonymous with ‘stupid’ and the functional equivalent of using the term ‘B.S.’ This understanding is supported by Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. That defendants’ counsel would display such effrontery to the court is astounding. In any event, if similar conduct recurs, the court will address such conduct with appropriate sanctions, as it will not tolerate such impertinent conduct. The court places the fault squarely at the feet of defendants’ counsel, as they are responsible for filing documents, as well as the content therein, with the court.”

Despite the scolding, Lindsay agreed to strike class allegations in the lawsuit.

Gibson Dunn did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did lawyers with Gibson Dunn’s co-counsel, Dallas law firm Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann.

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