May 24, 2007

"I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you're a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal..."

The judge does not laugh it off.

28 comments:

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AllenS said...

I can see where the judge would be irritated when compared to a fast food chain. Perhaps this would have been more appropriate in a courtroom:

"I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you're a few books short of a collection."

Bissage said...

That reminds me of good advice I got while still in law school from a federal magistrate judge: Never begin a sentence to a judge with the words "with all due respect, your honor" because every judge knows that translates to mean "listen up, bonehead!"

Hey, at least this guy picked up some bonus points for originality and humor.

(Might not be enough, though.)

Zeb Quinn said...

Actually, I didn't even find it all that original. The "few fries short of a happy meal" line has been around for a long time.

I can't imagine talking to any judge that way. He should have been sanctioned on the spot. It's telling that the guy was admitted pro hac vice. He probably figured that he'd never appear before her again so that freed him up rip on her with impunity.

Seven Machos said...

The judge is an idiot. Lawyers and judges and, particularly, lay people should be able to express themselves in court with great latitude.

mythusmage said...

When you're calling somebody a lackwit, respect has damn all to do with it.

Thorley Winston said...

I can't imagine talking to any judge that way. He should have been sanctioned on the spot. It's telling that the guy was admitted pro hac vice. He probably figured that he'd never appear before her again so that freed him up rip on her with impunity.


I agree that his comment probably warrants some kind of a sanction but Judge Isicoff’s order was sent to twenty-one other people including five other judges who are now aware that this guy is in trouble. Sanctioning him on the spot may have been a mercy that she didn’t want to extend because now his professional reputation has taken a hit beyond just her courtroom.

ShadyCharacter said...

I think the judge is simply an idiot. From even the limited context given (the page of transcript) and the quote itself, it is clear he was not insulting her intelligence, but making an analogy about missing elements to support her conclusion. Given her response, he probably had good reason to insult her intelligence.

From the abovethelaw comments:

"He was referring to her argument as being a few fries short of a happy meal, not her intelligence. it was basically another way of saying, your honor, respectfully, i think your conclusion is not supported by sufficient evidence. he clearly did not say something like, you can't understand this because you are a few fries short of a happy meal."

ShadyCharacter said...

If he were to say, "you have stolen a couple of bases in your argument" would she be justified in thinking he just called her a thief?

Her overreaction shows a startling lack of self-confidence. What, she can't stomach people speaking to her using down home colloquialisms? Also priceless is that her immediate response is to tell the lawyer to proceed. She then goes to her chambers. Stews about the percieved slight for who knows how long and then responds with a blunderbuss order to show cause, cc'ing half the Florida bar...

What a maroon!

Richard Fagin said...

The judge should summarily find the attorney in contempt for his Happy Meal comment and have the bailiff lock him in a cell with the Hamburglar.

jim said...

Here's where there's a great advantage to appearing pro se.

Thorley Winston said...

"He was referring to her argument as being a few fries short of a happy meal, not her intelligence. it was basically another way of saying, your honor, respectfully, i think your conclusion is not supported by sufficient evidence. he clearly did not say something like, you can't understand this because you are a few fries short of a happy meal."


That’s an interesting interpretation. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen “you’re a few French fries short of a Happy Meal™” used to mean anything other than as an insult of someone’s intelligence. That would seem to be the judge’s interpretation as well.

From Inwood said...

Good grief. Civility. Not the guy I'd want representing me.

Especially if the judge is not the smartest judge in the world. In my experience, sometimes I’ve felt, rightly or wrongly, that I was "smarter" or more knowledgeable about the issue in question than the person I was trying to convince on a client's behalf, be he/she a judge or an opponent. The last thing I wanted to do was to convey this sense of superiority since it would serve only to irritate & distract this person thus making him/her less likely to consider fully what I was convinced was a brilliant argument on my part.

Anyway, if I'd been the judge here, I'd have made this attorney apologize on the spot rather than "make a federal case out of it" so to speak. Unless the attorney had been out of line all day long. Which he wouldn’t have been since I’d have called him on his incivility immediately.

And as noted by bissage, I can't understand how anyone can say "with respect" (usually "with all due respect") & think that anyone will be so dull as to be amenable to the insult which always follows that hollow phrase.

And this particular insult is far from clever, humorous, or original. To paraphrase a question asked by Prof A. a few threads ago about Presidential jokes:

Can anyone think of some good examples of alleged courtroom witticisms, cute remarks, etc. directed at a judge that worked beyond just being funny?

Bissage said...

I swear, I don't recall having ever heard that expression before.

So, I Googled it.

What did I get?

"Web Results 1 - 10 of about 727,000 for fries short of a happy meal. (0.13 seconds)"

727,000.

Yikes!

I need to get out more.

Mark said...

I swear, I don't recall having ever heard that expression before.

Bissage,

Perhaps that means you are a lot more than a few fries short of a happy meal! heh.

David53 said...

"Now I'm not calling you a moron, I'm saying what you said was moronic."

Right.

Peter Palladas said...

In these diet conscious times, when obesity is very nearly an indictable offence, I would have thought the Judge should have taken the remark as a compliment on her trim figure.

Had she been blessed with a sense of humour that clearly, pro hac vice as it were, was absent, she would have responded in that vein.

But maybe she is hideously fat herself, in which case the line of argumentation would fail.

...but she isn't. Google confirms her to be quite a cutey skinny judge babe.

So the truth and true sin is...Counsel was attempting - badly - to flirt!

She reached for her Condi '55 Special Varmint gun.

Cool gal, I want a dinner date - nothing fried or French perhaps.

Peter Palladas said...

"You tell him Judge! I admire your style. If you're ever over in England I insist on treating you to a very happy dinner for two - with no French fries in sight.

Yours etc.,

Peter Palladas
The Wolds
Lincs."


...she must be cursing the invention of e-mail ;-)

Richard Dolan said...

It wasn't just the french fries comment that was so odd, particularly coming from an experienced attorney who is listed as the head of the bankruptcy practice group at a sizable firm. Immediately before the "french fries" crack, the lawyer is sharply questioning the judge about the judge's "argument." That's got things backwards, and is at least as unusual as the lawyer's flippant comment. The reason is that judges don't make arguments in their own courtroom (that's what lawyers do); judges make rulings. Usually one side is going to be unhappy with every such ruling. But whether the lawyer agrees with a particular ruling or not, it's just astonishingly amateurish to do what this guy did. This attorney evidently doesn't understand that the point of the exercise is persuasion -- you want this judge, or perhaps the District Court on an appeal, to agree with your position. An attorney is unlikely to accomplish that, or anything useful for his client, by antagonizing the judge in such a personal way.

All of that, moreover, shows up on just a single page of the transcript. One can only imagine what this lawyer was like during the rest of the argument on this motion, or at other appearances in this and other cases.

Steven said...

Never begin a sentence to a judge with the words "with all due respect, your honor" because every judge knows that translates to mean "listen up, bonehead!"

and

Google confirms her to be quite a cutey skinny judge babe.

combined to give me an image of a lawyer saying,

"With all due respect, your honor, you're a smokin' hot babe with a mind to match."

Donald Douglas said...

Actually, I've never heard the "few French Fries..." short line myself. It's a funny line, to be sure. I too imagine I need to get out more often. As for the way this thread is trending, I'm going with the lack of respect angle. I especially agree with Thorley Winston -- the line was a clear attack on intelligence, in my view. I'm not in the courtroom often, but I did come up with a pretty good line when I recently had a HUGE and NASTY debate on the Iraq funding bill with an active duty Marine who was arguing for U.S. withdrawal. We got to name-calling (which is the first time ever I've done it in a blog debate), and I suggested that "his firing clip was a few rounds short." The inference was to intelligence, plain and simple (and I don't know if it'll Google well). But I like the alternative responses mentioned in this thread. Maybe the judge could have taken it as a comment on her attractive figure! In any case, the judge's response seemed like overkill. Perhaps the contempt of court suggestion would have been about right.

Burkean Reflections

Revenant said...

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen “you’re a few French fries short of a Happy Meal™” used to mean anything other than as an insult of someone’s intelligence.

I don't I've ever heard the "you're a few X short of a Y" construction used to insult someone's *intelligence*. I've always heard it used as a way of saying "you're nuts" -- its like saying you've got a few screws loose, all your dogs aren't barking, etc.

In none of the above cases is it smart to say it to a judge, though.

joated said...

Time and place. This lawyer frgot where he was to to whom he was speaking. Calling the Judge hearing your case "a few fries short of a Happy Meal", or dumb, should get you a contempt ruling. Lucky for him he only got a show cause.

Donald Douglas said...

Revenant: Good point, though, in my case, my antagonist wasn't too smart, in addition to "running a few quarts low" (or insert any other version of the "you're a few X short of a Y," blah, blah, blah). Whatever the case, my debater wasn't all together upstairs in a number of respects.

Oh, also, didn't you mean to say, "I don't [think] I've ever heard [such and such]...used to insult someone's *intelligence*." Good communicative delivery matters too when making critical observations (or debating, for that matter). Though, to be fair, I'm far from perfect on that point (proofreading, that is).

Burkean Reflections

Bissage said...

You know, if ever there were a thread for mixed metaphors ( or something), this is it:

(1) I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you're a few bricks short of a Happy Meal;

(2) I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that your elevator doesn't go all the way to a full load;

(3) I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you're not playing with all your oars in the water;

(4) I suggest to you with respect, Your Honor, that you're not the sharpest tool in the chandelier; and,

(5) Well, you get the idea.

MrBuddwing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donald Douglas said...

Bissage: Don't you mean "not playing with a full deck?" Boaters "row" -- as in "row, row, row your boat...," with oars, "Your Honor" (low bow here). But, you get my drift. And, gosh, they put "tools in chandeliers?" Say that again, "Mixture Man"?

Burkean Reflections

Beldar said...

(1) Re cc'g so many people: This was a chapter 11 bankruptcy case, in which there are many interested parties. Service lists are notoriously long in bankruptcy court. And revoking "pro hac vice" privileges to practice before a court in a state where a lawyer isn't licensed — which is the sanction under discussion here — is a matter that is very properly to be considered by all of the judges sitting on that court. (It's not inconceivable that one of them may end up, in fact, presiding over the contempt hearing.) This was, and correctly should be, all part of the public record anyway, and this kind of conduct is indeed guaranteed to get you talked about among judges and their law clerks. But if you think this particular judge circulated her order to so many people out of spite, you're almost certainly mistaken. It was routine procedure.

(2) Likewise, the fact that she delayed her action, rather than issuing some sort of sanction or rebuke on the spot, indicates that she is well acquainted with the substantive caselaw and procedure regarding civil contempt of court. There's a strong presumption that such matters should be heard in a separate hearing, after due notice. The accused can thus prepare his defense, and the contempt matter can be heard fully, after tempers have calmed and without prejudicing the merits of the underlying case. Holding a separate hearing does, however, confirm how seriously the judge takes this matter, and it also makes it far more likely that any serious punishment that's decreed will be upheld on appeal.

(3) God spare those of you who think that this kind of comment was remotely appropriate from ever having to retain a lawyer to represent you in court who's as ill-informed as you are. My more extended take (with apologies for link-whoring, Prof. A, but I can't seem to get TypePad to generate a "linkback" or "trackback" with Blogger yet): The "David E. Kelley Contempt Falacy": TV versus real-world contempt of court.