Judge Rules Lawyer Is Too Drunk to Litigate

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Many's the time that we have debated the question whether it is possible to be "too drunk to litigate."  This will not settle that debate, but it is one more piece of evidence.

A judge in Las Vegas ordered a blood-alcohol test for criminal defense lawyer Joseph Caramango after he showed up for trial smelling of alcohol and slurring his words.  Questioned by the judge about the latter, Caramango gave several different explanations (lawyers call this "arguing in the alternative"), most of which seem to have involved a head injury he allegedly suffered in a car crash on the way to court.  He could not explain why neither he nor the other party to this accident had called police, except to say that he "did not believe in calling 911."  Thinking quickly, but stupidly, Caramango turned for support to his ex-girlfriend Christine, who had accompanied him to court.  When the judge questioned her, however, she said that her name was actually Josephine, and that she was not Caramango's ex-girlfriend, but rather had met him 20 minutes earlier at a nearby bar.

Oops.  Thanks, honey.  I suppose you could argue that she was his ex, but the "girlfriend" description is probably not valid unless a relationship lasting 20 minutes minus travel time can reach that level.  I suppose this did happen in Las Vegas, though.  Since you can get married in less time than that in Vegas, I think we have to be lenient on this one.

In any event, Judge Leavitt decided to cut to the chase and called in a courthouse nurse, which they evidently have standing by in Vegas courthouses to deal with possibly drunken attorneys.  She gave him a breath test, which showed a blood-alcohol content of .075, .005 below the legal limit for driving in Nevada.  "Another acquittal!" I hope he cried, but while that may entitle him to keep driving, the judge still declared a mistrial in the kidnapping case Caramango was there to argue.  "I don't think you can tell a straight story," the judge told him, "because you are intoxicated."  (Lady, some of us can't tell a straight story unless we are intoxicated, so maybe you should give the guy a chance.)  She did not hold him in contempt of court, however, and there is no indication as of yet that ethics charges will be filed.

Caramango maintained that he was not intoxicated, though he did admit having at least two tequila shots not later than 4 a.m. the night before.  He said that he had been more than ready to go forward with witness testimony, although considering how he handled his own first witness I would bet his client, who faces life in prison if convicted, is relatively glad that didn't happen.  "I've always considered myself the consummate professional," Caramango told reporters.

The widely-viewed video clips of the consummate professional in action may cause him to reconsider, or not.