Federal Judge Rebukes Lawyer Over The Tone Of Brief Filed With 'Potshots And Hyperbole'

Federal Judge Rebukes Lawyer Over The Tone Of Brief Filed With 'Potshots And Hyperbole'
Mar 2023

Federal Judge Rebukes Lawyer Over The Tone Of Brief Filed With 'Potshots And Hyperbole'
A federal judge decided to offer an attorney before the court a little grace after a filing filled with "unnecessary potshots and hyperbole," not that the attorney took him up on the offer. Northern District of Illinois Judge Steven Seeger gave lawyer Calvita Frederick an additional week to refile her motion and tone down the rhetoric:

"The court offers the following modest suggestion," Seeger wrote. "The court invites counsel to reread the draft, with the benefit of the passage of time, and maybe a good night's sleep. And more specifically, this court invites counsel to have a moment of quiet reflection, and revisit the tone of the filing."

However, more than a week later, Frederick has yet to refile.

The hyperbolic brief was filed on behalf of a medical student suing over disability accommodations on their first-step medical exam. Seeger found the lawsuit was filed against the wrong party, as National Board of Medical Examiners grants accommodations for the exam, not the medical school. Frederick filed a motion to amend Seeger's judgment, and that's the briefing with the questionable tone.

As reported by ABA Journal, Seeger detailed several of the "potshots" Frederick launched at the court.

Seeger listed several of Frederick's statements, including her assertions that:

o Seeger "was mistaken and/or deliberately chose to disregard the evidence in the record."

o Someone else--possibly a court clerk--may have written the order signed by Seeger, and whoever it was had made "manifest errors of facts and law."

o Seeger didn't recognize the need "to do adequate research on the topic before issuing a ruling."

o Any litigant "is entitled to a presiding officer who knows the law."

o Seeger had "summarily skimmed through the filings of the case to cherry pick--in the shortest time possible--whatever would have been useful to put together an order against plaintiff with a minimum appearance of legality."

"The court could go on," Seeger said after listing several of Frederick's statements. "Counsel did. After 28 pages, counsel finally ran out of gas."

Yikes. That just feels awkward to read. But rather than react to the bait, the judge decided to take the high road:

"The point is not so much that this court is offended. People don't tend to get on the federal bench without tough skin. And, when they get here, the process and the grind toughen the hide. Still, civility standards (such as they are) exist for a reason. If they aren't worth defending, then they aren't worth having.

"In the meantime, a few words come to mind when this court thinks about the filing. But this court will keep all of those words to itself."

This is maybe the most restrained benchslap ever, but the judge definitely got his point across.

Earlier: Former District Judge Leaves An Attorney A Scathing Review As His Swan Song

Federal Judge Rebukes Lawyer Over The Tone Of Brief Filed With 'Potshots And Hyperbole'
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.