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Remembering Judge Jerry Buchmeyer

Buchmeyer

If truth is stranger than fiction, few knew that better than U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer of Dallas, who died this week at the age of 76. Highly regarded as a jurist, Buchmeyer was also well known for his long-running Texas Bar Journal column, "et cetera," which culled real-life humor from actual trials and depositions. The State Bar of Texas turned Buchmeyer's collected material into a blog, Say What?!, where his funny stories live on.

In 2006, J. Craig Williams and I had the good fortune to interview Judge Buchmeyer for our legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer. In the interview, he recounted that it was his first case as a federal judge in 1979 that inspired him to start collecting courtroom humor.

The criminal case involved a female defendant who had come to Dallas as part of a scheme to buy $500,000 worth of gold Krugerrands using counterfeit checks. On the witness stand was a man named Dooley Wilson. A retiree whose wife had urged him to go back to work, Wilson was in his first day as a limousine driver when he had the misfortune to pick up the woman en route to purchase the Krugerrands. When the prosecutor asked Wilson to identify the woman in the courtroom, the nervous man pointed to the female U.S. attorney in charge of the case and said, "That's her." Everyone in the courtroom laughed, Buchmeyer recalled, including himself.

At the time, Buchmeyer was also president of the Dallas Bar Association. When he ran dry of ideas for his obligatory president's column in the bar newsletter, he started using these funny stories from trial and deposition transcripts. His humor column launched a year later and continued until 2008 -- a 28-year run. While he found many of the stories on his own, he also had many sent to him by readers from all over the country. Here is another of his favorites that he told during our interview:

Question: Isn't it a fact you've been running around with other women?
Answer: Yes it is, but you can't prove it.

Of course, Judge Buchmeyer was known for more than funny stories. As Nathan Koppel wrote this week at the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog, he was best known for a 1985 ruling that helped desegregate public housing in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News said he "was considered a courageous and independent champion of civil and human rights by some, but an ultra-liberal bent on disrupting the status quo by others."

You can hear our interview with Judge Buchmeyer at the Legal Talk Network.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 25, 2009 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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