San Antonio judge threatens to kiss disputing lawyers in front of Alamo – Texas Monthly


The judge’s legal brief began with a quote from Elvis Presley: “Truth is like the sun; You can close it for a while, but it won’t go away. It got even stranger from there.

In his seven-page order setting out some ground rules for attorneys representing HouseCanary Inc. and Quicken Loans Inc. in a hotly contested federal lawsuit involving alleged trade secrets and fraud, San Antonio U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, let down an awesome pop culture. ref (Rambo! Sgt. Joe friday from Dredge! Star wars!), lamented the migration of Yankee lawyers to Texas and gave a brief history of the time. (Credit to San Antonio Express-News for being the first to report this bizarre order.)

Arguably the strangest nugget of the order is Biery’s threat to punish lawyers if they don’t behave with proper courtroom decorum. “Although the court expects a vigorous plea and does not expect lawyers to hold hands and chant Kumbaya,” Biery writes, “the consequences of unprofessional conduct or sharp acuity in the pleadings may also include the revocation of pro hac vice privileges, sitting in the courthouse rotunda and opposing lawyers kissing on the lips in front of the Alamo with cameras present. Apparently he’s made that latest threat before – Biery noted that previous lawyers quickly straightened out after raising the public makeup session as a potential punishment. “As Sergeant Joe Friday did, the court expects ‘Just the facts, ma’am,'” Biery wrote to close the paragraph.

According to Express-News, Biery is known for his unique brand of legal jargon (his decision in a case involving San Antonio strip clubs is required reading), but this order appears to be his magnum opus. It just covers so many ground. “There will be no Rambo tactics or other forms of behavior in elementary school,” he writes on page two. “Simply put: don’t play games. Biery makes his preference for analog over digital known, urging both parties to “take time to listen, that is, talk and listen as opposed to texting and emailing.” On page three, when discussing the possibility of appointing a special master, Biery calls the potential candidate a “curious amigo” (a puny translation, perhaps, of amicus curiae). He also quotes “The Unauthorized But True Story of Dragnet and the Jack Webb Films”.

Later, Biery becomes nostalgic for the good old days. “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the litigation community of San Antonio consisted of about 300 lawyers who knew each other professionally and socially, some of whom are quite capable of adjudicating these kinds of cases. and whose handshake agreements were retained, rendering court orders often unnecessary, ”Biery writes. “For reasons known only to the parties that pay the bills, the most recent phenomenon is that equally capable attorneys are immigrating to Texas, as this illustration shows:

As another old school San Antonio lawyer, Hobart Husan Jr., loved to say, “Texans, you keep the wrong river. “

Sure, Texas Judges issued many astute legal orders prior to Biery’s last. Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann once quoted Walter Sobchak from The great Lebowski in a decision (“For your information, the Supreme Court categorically rejected pre-restraint”). In 1996U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent blasted lawyers for Philadelphia’s Big Insurance after asking to transfer a federal case from Galveston to Houston because it was too far from the nearest major city airport . “This court certainly does not wish to burden a litigant with such an onerous burden,” Kent wrote in his refusal to transfer. “The defendant must be assured that he is not embarking on a three-week journey via boxcars when traveling to Galveston. On the contrary, the defendant will be delighted to discover that the highway is paved and lighted all the way … and thanks to the efforts of this Court’s predecessor, Justice Roy Bean, the trip should be free of thieves, hooligans or vermin. vicious of an unsavory nature. Former state district judge Ted Poe, now a member of the US Congress, was perhaps best known for implementing weird phrases, including ordering a convicted child molester to put up a sign in his yard stating: “No child under the age of 18 is allowed in these premises by court order,” and posting thieves on display outside the stores they had robbed, holding signs of their crimes.

But none of these other judges’ orders capture the same curvy quirk of Biery’s most recent masterpiece. In the final section of the order, titled “Keeping Things in Perspective,” Biery looks at the big picture. “The condensation of 14 billion years into a twenty-four hour timeline reveals that our ancestors arrived about a minute before midnight, which means our three and ten biblical points and the time of this dispute is a blink of an eye. eye of a nanosecond. ” Wow. Deep. “Accordingly, can we move towards a reasonable conclusion with or without trial, whether in this Court or any other.” For reference, Biery includes an image depicting the history of the earth in the form of a 24-hour clock, adapted from the form of Carl Sagan Cosmic calendar.

Biery returns to the tangible world in Appendix A, in which he explains “The rule: treat others (including lawyers, parties, witnesses and court staff) as you would like to be treated”. Sanctions for “not complying with the rule” include “loss of respect” from co-workers, “writing the rule in multiples of fifty on a Big Chief tablet with a number two pencil” – this punishment , writes Biery, “is reserved for those whose conduct is particularly childish” —and “The donation of many photos of George Washington to deserving charities. “

Biery closes his order like any judge should: with a photo of Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by a quote in which Honest Abe reminds all lawyers to put good before business. It seems likely that the warring lawyers in the case Biery is currently chairing will follow suit – if not, we may soon see some PG-13 rated action outside of the Alamo.

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