Shame and Law

In 2006, exasperated when the parties to Avista Management v. Wausau Underwriters could not agree on the site for a deposition, federal judge Gregory Presnell of the Middle District of Florida scheduled a unique resolution on the steps of a Tampa courthouse:

Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one game of ‘rock, paper, scissors.’ The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11–12, 2006.

In 1596, when legal scrivener Richard Mylward produced a legal pleading that was fully 120 pages long when 16 would have sufficed, Lord Keeper Egerton found a fitting punishment:

It is therefore ordered, that the warden of the Fleet shall take the said Richard Mylward into his custody, and shall bring him into Westminster Hall on Saturday next about 10 of the clock in the forenoon, and then and there shall cut a hole in the myddest of the same engrossed Replication, which is delivered unto him for that purpose, and put the said Richard’s head through the same hole, and so let the same Replication hang about his shoulders with the written side outward, and then, the same so hanging, shall lead the same Richard, bareheaded and barefaced, round about Westminster Hall whilst the Courts are sitting, and shall shew him at the bar of every of the three Courts within the Hall, and then shall take him back again to the Fleet, and keep him prisoner until he shall have paid £10 to her Majesty for a fine, and 20 nobles to the defendant for his costs in respect of the aforesaid abuse, which fine and costs are now adjudged and imposed upon him by this Court for the abuse aforesaid.

“If the laws could speak for themselves,” wrote Lord Halifax, “they would complain of the lawyers in the first place.”