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Higher authority

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin, Texas, made headlines earlier this month, as noted in this space, when he whacked the lawyers in a civil dispute in his court. Because of their behavior, he ordered the two to appear at a “kindergarten party” he would be holding in his courtroom.

The lawyers quietly settled their dispute after that and the judge cancelled the party, reported the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

But they talk plain down in Texas, and Sparks got a not-very-subtle reminder that everyone has a boss, or at least someone to whom he or she is accountable.

In Sparks’s case, that would be the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the Texas Lawyer, Sparks got a caustic letter from 5th Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones after his “kindergarten” order got national play.

She wrote,

Dear Sam, It has not escaped my attention, or that of my colleagues or, I am told, nationally known blog sites that you have issued several ‘cute’ orders in the past few weeks. The order attached below is the most recent. 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. It suggests bias against counsel. No doubt, none of us has been consistently above reproach in our professional communications with counsel. We are all prone to human error. But no judge who writes an order should allow such rhetoric to overcome common sense. Ultimately, this kind of excess, as I noted, reflects badly on all of us. I urge you to think before you write.
Sincerely, Edith Jones

Ouch. Somewhere in Texas, two lawyers are snickering.

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