Judge Sam Sparks, a federal judge in Austin, has had a lot of fun at the expense of the lawyers who appear before him. Recently, Judge Sparks publicly chastised both counsel in a hearing and ordered them to attend at the Courthouse on the weekend to attend a “kindergarten party”. The purpose of the party was to offer remedial education to the apparently squabbling lawyers who the judge said were practicing law at the level of a first year law student. A stinging rebuke if ever there was one.
Sparks unusual behavior includes rendering “cute” court orders that are apparently meant to be humorous, but are nothing short of denigrating and demeaning, to the lawyers involved and to the administration of justice.
For example, this is a portion of an order of Judge Sparks dated August 23, 2011:
“…The Court now enters the following opinion and order DENYING the motion. The Court has already turned down two extremely tempting offers to transform this case from a boring old federal lawsuit into an exciting, politically-charged media circus. As any competent attorney could have predicted, the Court declines the latest invitation as well. However, the Court is forced to conclude that Allan E. Parker Jr., whose signature appears on this motion, is anything but competent… The Court assumes Mr. Parker is as incompetent as he appears.”
Judge Sparks caustic judgments have flown around the internet, garnering amusement in many quarters and spiking the judge’s Google entries. But the party may be over for Judge Sparks.
A leaked memo from Edith Jones, Chief Judge of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, who oversees the federal courts, may put an end to Judge Sparks frivolity. The memo reads, in part:
“…Frankly, this kind of rhetoric is not funny. 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.
It suggests either that the judge is simply indulging himself at the expense of counsel or that he is fighting with counsel in what, as Judge Gee used to say, is surely not a fair contest….Ultimately this kind of excess, as I noted, reflects badly on all of us. I urge you to think before you write.”
In my view, Judge Sparks has turned his bench into a “bully pulpit”. Fortunately, there are only a few judges in Vancouver who rip counsel apart as a blood sport and one of them has just recently retired. Thank goodness!
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang