Every litigator has encountered the theatrical, slightly crazy opponent. Their papers are filled with bizarre accusations and wild unsupported legal theories. They dress oddly. Their affect is off. They act out in court.
Some lawyers and pro se litigants act that way because they are genuinely crazy. But some do it because it puts their opponents off their game. If their inexorable oddness makes you lose your cool in writing, or in court, they win, and suddenly the focus of the proceeding becomes not the merits but their oddness and your reaction to it. Suddenly, it's you — rather than the crazy guy — who is the laughingstock, because you've been trolled successfully. If the troll is sufficiently epic, you become infamous. Take Bill Bone, a Florida defense attorney who was so irate at plaintiff attorney Michael Robb's look-at-me-in-my-humble-old-shoes-fighting-for-the-people routine that he filed a motion demanding that the judge order Robb to wear nice shoes in court.
Or, this week, take Illinois attorney Thomas W. Gooch III, who allowed himself to become seriously discomboobulated. Gooch, who was defending his client Exotic Motors from a lemon-law claim, believed that his opponent Dmitry Feofanov had seated his paralegal at counsel table solely to distract the court with her voluptuousness, and saw fit to file a motion in limine demanding that she be exiled:
Defendant's counsel is anecdotally familiar with the tactics and theatrics of Plaintiff's counsel . . . . Such behavior includes having a large breasted woman sit next to him at counsel's table during the course of the trial. There is no evidence whatsoever that this woman has any legal training whatsoever, and the sole purpose of her presence at Plaintiff's Counsel's table is to draw the attention of the jury away from the relevant proceedings before this court, obviously prejudicing the Defendant's in this or any other cause. Until it is shown that this woman has any sort of legal background, she should be required to sit in the gallery with the rest of the spectators and be barred from sitting at counsel's table during the course of this trial.
You know, the judiciary in this country is made up of a Mos Eisley array of misfits, but I can still confidently say that 95% of judges would read that motion and say "wow, what an entitled dick. I'm going to find ways to humiliate him and screw his client." A smarter and more self-possessed lawyer would recognize that. Thomas W. Gooch III may be smart and self-possessed in other circumstances, but in this circumstance, the most charitable interpretation is that he got trolled in epic fashion. Even if he's right in his accusation, he looks like an ass and his Google results are now 75% boob-related. The harm he's caused to his own reputation, and to his client's interests, is worse by several cup sizes than the hypothetical harm they could have faced from Feofanov's alleged stunt. He got rope-a-doped.
And that's the nicest interpretation. Feofanov says his paralegal is qualified and necessary. Gooch may well just be one of those sexist, narcissistic choads who thinks that all the women in the world get dressed every day specifically to allure men like him — like the guy who gets angry because a woman doesn't wear her wedding ring while working out at the gym.
Either way, don't be Thomas W. Gooch III. Protip: if your conduct of your client's affairs requires you to make a statement reassuring the media that you are not per se opposed to large breasts, you're doing it wrong.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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