The following exchange took place in the Central District of California during a hearing on January 30, 2012. Here, Judge Dale Fischer explains why lawyers should focus more on persuasion and less on rhetoric:
THE COURT: Now, there were a number of declarations attached to the reply that apparently were not filed immediately after they were signed. Why was that?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Your Honor, we waited to file them with our reply.
THE COURT: And you seriously thought that was the appropriate approach?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Yes, I did, your honor.
THE COURT: Well, for future reference, it wasn’t. Don’t hold back evidence that relates to your motion until after the opposing party files its opposition and then just stick it to them at the end. So I’m not sure why you thought that was appropriate, but now you know.
Along those lines: I also want to tell you, I don’t know why lawyers do this, and there’s a lot of them in the room so take heed, all of you, language like failures are staggering, violations of this magnitude rarely occur, stunning display of incompetence, bitter irony, breathtaking dereliction of duty are not only unpersuasive, they’re somewhat annoying. I don’t have time for rhetoric. I’m really, really busy. Why anyone would want this job, I don’t know…
But in any event, it’s just – I don’t know whether you stay up nights trying to think of clever phrases, but trust me, no judge that I’ve ever spoken to has ever said, Boy, can that guy turn a phrase. They only say, Boy, why didn’t he get to the point. So, please, in future pleadings, remember that.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: In addition to that, I’ve been around awhile both in practice and on the bench, so I suspect I’ve seen a few more cases than you, and really, it’s not all that staggering and it’s not all that great a magnitude, so when your experience and mine differ, it just takes all of the punch out of those comments.
To make matters even worse, Counsel, your statement that the government failed to make any effort to preserve the documents is simply false. And your statements in your papers so often go beyond the bounds of zealous advocacy that I have to say your papers had very little persuasive value. In fact, as I was trying to check some of the references you made to deposition testimony, I looked at it three or four times because I thought I must be searching for the wrong page because the pages you were citing to had oftentimes no relationship to the proposition you were citing them for. You started off extremely poorly as I started reading the papers, and I had little confidence in anything you had to say as I went through them.
Judge Fischer denied the defendants’ motion.