Ramblings & ephemera

Lawyers playing childish games

From Adam Liptak’s “Lawyers Won’t End Squabble, So Judge Turns to Child’s Play” (The New York Times: 9 June 2006):

Fed up with the inability of two lawyers to agree on a trivial issue in an insurance lawsuit, a federal judge in Florida this week ordered them to “convene at a neutral site” and “engage in one (1) game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ ” to settle the matter.

… The judge, Gregory A. Presnell of Federal District Court in Orlando, wrote that his innovation was “a new form of alternative dispute resolution.”

The proximate cause of Judge Presnell’s ruling, issued Tuesday, was a motion saying the two lawyers in the case could not agree about where to conduct the deposition of a witness. The choices were the building where they both work, four floors apart, or a court reporter’s office down the street.

… wary that the lawyers would start a new battle over where to conduct the rock-paper-scissors showdown, Judge Presnell gave them a default site: the front steps of the federal courthouse in Tampa.

That will not be necessary, said David J. Pettinato, a lawyer for the plaintiff. He and his adversary have agreed to meet on June 30, Mr. Pettinato said, at “an undisclosed location.”

Mr. Pettinato added that he had been wasting no time since the order came down and had been training with his daughters, who are 5 and 9. They have advised him to open with rock. Mr. Pettinato said he was inclined to agree “because my case is solid as a rock.”

That would be an unusual opening for a lawyer, said Matti Leshem, the co-commissioner of the USA Rock Paper Scissors League, which he described as the governing body of the sport, whose headquarters are in Los Angeles.

“I guarantee you right now,” Mr. Leshem said, “that both lawyers will open with paper. Lawyers open with paper 67 percent of the time, because they deal with so much paper.”

Mr. Leshem offered to officiate the match. “What I don’t want,” he said, “is some rogue element of rock-paper-scissors coming down from the bench. When the law takes rock-paper-scissors into its own hands, mayhem can occur.”

The second lawyer in the case, D. Lee Craig, declined through a spokesman to preview his strategy. Judging from the spokesman’s tone, Mr. Craig did not find the matter especially amusing. …

“Apparently you think it is in your client’s interest to create as much misery and bad feeling as you are able,” Mr. Craig wrote [in a letter to Mr. Pettinato last week]. “In those endeavors, you are most able.”

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