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Don't Let This Be You: The Cost of Carelessly Written Pleadings and Court Papers

Via Legal Juice I learned of this excellent Order issued by a federal court regarding a plaintiff's Petition for Attorneys' Fees. The Order is from 2004, but I still want to highlight it here because (a) I'm pretty sure the Internet didn't exist in 2004 (did it?) so I doubt many of you have seen it before, and (b) one part of it (the last bullet below) actually made me laugh out loud while sitting alone in my office, which is not easy to do.

To clarify up front, the lawyer seeking the fees and getting the brunt of the judge's criticism won the case at issue, and is said to have performed quite well in the courtroom, too. It was his 209 hours of written work product that came under the microscope, however. Defense counsel argued that the plaintiffs lawyer, who I will refer to only as "Mr. P" since the statute of limitation for sloppiness has probably expired, was not entitled to his requested fee of $300/hour "in light of the quality of his written work," and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart agreed.

Judge Hart explained that Mr. P's written work was careless "to the point of disrespectful," and that the problems with his pleadings went beyond typos to include missing paragraphs and pages, and nearly unintelligible pleadings and other arguments. As for the typographical errors, Judge Hart said the court "would be remiss if we did not point out some of our favorites," including:

  • Mr. P referring to the court throughout the litigation as "THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTER [sic] DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA."
  • In a response to an attack on his typographical errors (!), Mr. P wrote:
    "As for there being typos, yes there have been typos, but these errors have not detracted from the arguments or results, and the rule in this case was a victory for Mr. Devore. Further, had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff’s counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones."

    The judge added here that "If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant. However, based on the history of the case and Mr. P's filings, we know otherwise."
  • Finally, in a letter to the judge, Mr. P identifies the judge as “Honorable Jacon [sic] Hart.” In his Order, the judge writes that "I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in the Lord of the Rings, but alas, I am but a judge."

The ultimate price that Mr. P paid for his careless written work ended up being a reduction from his requested $300/hour down to $150/hour for the 209 hours of written work he performed -- a $31,450 hit.

Posted by Bruce Carton on April 29, 2011 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)


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