I am not feeling much, if any, holiday spirit. Are you? With wars raging between Ukraine and Russia and between Israel and Hamas, there are not a lot of good feelings this time of year. wherever you are. We don’t have to look overseas; just look at the goings on, or more precisely, not goings on in D.C. and in various states.
The Marx Brothers had a routine about contract drafting and the presence of a “sanity clause.” I would tell Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, especially this year, and no “sanity clause,” just as Chico Marx told Groucho while “negotiating.”
“Negotiation” would hardly be the correct term, but the scene from the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera,” is worth four minutes of your time, and you may even crack a smile, let alone a laugh.
Add to all that mishegoss the likelihood of a rerun of the 2020 election in 2024, regardless of the numerical outcome, which could well go on forever, which makes my head spin around like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist.”
It won’t be a matter of “to the victor belongs the spoils.” It will be “déjà vu all over again.” Is anyone ready for this? As we all know, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Are we all insane? Grinchy enough for you?
It’s hard to choose insane, inane examples of our professional antics this year among the many out there, but I will try. One in particular not only “strains credulity” to use a polite term in a pleading that is code for “the other side is nuts,” but tosses credulity into outer space.
Whatever happened to America’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani? From hero worship after 9/11 to becoming a laughingstock in and out of the profession, his trajectory, as we have seen, has gone straight into the toilet. Even after losing summary judgment in the Georgia election workers case and being nailed with a stratospheric judgment — probably never even a tiny portion to be collected — Giuliani insists that he has the goods on these two women. Proof requires evidence. And what does he have? Bupkis (Yiddish for zero, zip, nada.) If you turn back the clock 25 years or so, do you think that he would have ever imagined being in the pickle he’s in these days? I doubt it, but he’s certainly changed in the intervening two decades.
And now, he’s being sued again. For defamation again. By the same two election workers he previously defamed in Georgia. (It’s that old Herman’s Hermits song, “Henry the Eighth”: “Second verse same as the first.”) Do you remember your parents telling you, “If I have told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, don’t ever do that again?” Lesson lost on Giuliani.
And while I know my editor is sick of Tom Girardi stories (sorry, Alex), his spectacular fall was all over the media and the TV reality series, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Lawsuits a-flying, Girardi in an assisted living facility because, purportedly, he’s suffering from dementia, state bar investigations, and finger-pointing in all directions, especially at the bar itself for failing to do anything about Girardi and his antics until the disciplinary horse was not only out of the barn, but galloping away at an extremely high speed.
Dinosaur lawyers will remember, perhaps assuming facts not in evidence, that there was a fad, if you can call it that, of stuffing as many people as possible into a VW bug (the car, not an insect). Inane or insane: how many words can you fit on a line of a brief or other court submission?
Judge Sheryl H. Lipman for the Western District of Tennessee, who is hearing the underlying litigation, used fewer words than the lawyers who were in a battle royal over what do the words “double spacing” truly mean.
This question, which had all the seriousness of a Final Jeopardy question, consumed the time and labor of some major law firms who claimed “unfair,” just like we did in games of Red Rover (obviously before video games and smart phones). At the end of the day, it was a big brouhaha over nothing, as the judge, hearing the case and this motion, concluded. She was way too judicial to say STFU, but that was the clear meaning of her ruling, telling the lawyers to focus their attention on the issues in the case and ditch the ridiculous. (I wonder how the various law firms sold their clients on how it was worth the billable hours. Ka-ching.) As in-house counsel, I would have said, “if you want to litigate that issue, it’s on your dime, not my client’s.”
Is this akin to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? In this case, there were no angels, just lawyers litigating that momentous issue, with straight faces all around. Of course, I don’t think that anyone would equate angels with lawyers, an obvious contradiction. But since this is the Christmas season, it’s the perfect time to watch (or rewatch) the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s sappy and overwrought (cue the lawyer in me), but there are lessons in it for lawyers — along with everyone else who has a pulse.
Jill Switzer has been an active member of the State Bar of California for over 40 years. She remembers practicing law in a kinder, gentler time. She’s had a diverse legal career, including stints as a deputy district attorney, a solo practice, and several senior in-house gigs. She now mediates full-time, which gives her the opportunity to see dinosaurs, millennials, and those in-between interact — it’s not always civil. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.