Order Directs Counsel Not to Mudsling, Fingerpoint

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On Tuesday, Judge Davis of the Northern District of Florida entered an order that suggested a slight frustration with discovery disputes that may result merely from a lack of civility between counsel.  Put another way, he is %@#*ing sick of the "now all too common, but absolutely intolerable, take-no-prisoners, scorched earth arrogance exhibited by many present day self-styled ‘litigators.’"

Somewhere, there is a partner backing slowly and quietly out of a courtroom, just out of visual range of an associate still standing at counsel table.

In the judge’s opinion, "truly justiciable" good-faith discovery disputes are very rare.  Given his suspicion that this was not one of those, but rather the garden-variety type, he established some very specific procedures to govern its resolution.  Sadly, this did not include a rock-paper-scissors match between counsel, as a judge in the Middle District ordered last year, but lead counsel do have to meet personally if necessary according to a specific schedule, and the non-prevailing attorney will likely be the one to pay any costs if the court is actually forced to rule on the dispute.

Finally, the judge concluded with a list of things to cut out:

[C]ounsel are advised that in my thirty-three years as a civil trial lawyer and judge I have seen it all and have heard it all. . . . Consequently, I will not consider half-baked arguments, lame excuses, delays caused by the client, mud slinging, passing the buck, pointing fingers, blaming support staff, or particularly, lack of time.

Also no fishing expeditions, unlimited document requests, usual boilerplate, totally unsupported claims, or arguments that a "common English word is ‘vague’ or ‘overbroad.’"

Boy, if that became common practice, it would probably leave a bunch of lawyers standing around wondering what to do.  I think we actually have billing codes for most of those categories.

Link:  Design-Build Concepts, Inc. v. Jenkins Brick Co. (N.D. Fla. June 26, 2007)