Friday, December 16, 2011

Of Attorneys and Ostriches

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Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit recently offered the following advice to appellate attorneys:

When there is apparently dispositive precedent, an appellant may urge its overruling or distinguishing or reserve a challenge to it for a petition for certiorari but may not simply ignore it. We don’t know the thinking that led the appellants’ counsel in these two cases to do that. But we do know that the two sets of cases out of which the appeals arise, involving the blood-products and Bridgestone/Firestone tire litigations, generated many transfers under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, three of which we affirmed in the two ignored precedents. There are likely to be additional such appeals; maybe appellants think that if they ignore our precedents their appeals will not be assigned to the same panel as decided the cases that established the precedents. Whatever the reason, such advocacy is unacceptable.
The ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate. (Not that ostriches really bury their heads in the sand when threatened; don’t be fooled by the picture below.) The “ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against a litigant’s contention does not exist is as unprofessional as it is pointless.”
Gonzales-Servin v. Ford Motor Company, No. 11-1665 (7th Cir. 11/23/11), pp. 4-5. You can find the opinion here. To illustrate his point, he included the two photographs set forth below.

It is good to know that in these times of budget shortfalls that federal judges still have access to Photo Shop. This was indeed a case where two pictures were worth a thousand words.


George E. Bourguignon, Jr. Attorney at Law said...

Judge Ponsor is quite a character and man to watch. One of the best to read on a regular basis. Did he really put pictures in the opinion? Did the attorney get sanctioned?

Steve Sather said...

Yes, he really did put the pictures in the opinion. He did not sanction the attorney. I guess he felt that the pictures were sanction enough.

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