Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones...

You may already have seen this recent Seventh Circuit opinion from Judge Posner. If you haven't, take a few minutes to glance at it.

To make a long story short, the defendant and her lawyer, a co-defendant, settled a personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff had a $180,000 lien on the proceeds from the settlement, but the lawyer disbursed the funds to himself and the defendant, leaving nothing to satisfy the lien. The plaintiff brought suit to recover the lien amount. The trial court issued a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to place $180,000 in trust to satisfy the plaintiff's lien. The defendants didn't comply, and the trial court found them in contempt. 

In the opinion, the Seventh Circuit upholds the trial court's contempt order. But this opinion isn't interesting for its content--it's interesting because Judge Posner lets loose on both the defendants and the trial judge. He first criticizes the defendants' brief, calling it "gaunt and pathetic" and pointing out that it contains only 118 words of legal argument. For good measure, he even throws in a "brevity is the soul of wit" jab. Judge Posner goes on to describe the lawyer as "untrustworthy" and to criticize the lawyer's "shenanigans" before the trial court. 

But he doesn't stop there--he then goes after the trial judge, writing that she should have "smelled a rat" early in the litigation and not allowed the defendants to continue to drag the case along for more than two years.

I don't know what to make of this opinion. It's harsh--I don't think that can be disputed. But this is not the first harsh opinion we've seen, and it certainly won't be the last. 

Is it too harsh, though? Sometimes litigants deserve scolding--and maybe these litigants deserved every bit of the scolding they got. And maybe the trial judge shouldn't have let the case drag on. 

What do you think? Too harsh? Not harsh enough? Or just right?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.