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The 'Benchslappy' Seventh Circuit -- A 2014 First Quarter Review

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

We're only three months into 2014, and the "Benchslappy" Seventh Circuit (so dubbed by Above the Law) has already issued enough benchslaps to warrant a review. And we're not just talking Judge Posner, but Judge Easterbrook as well. Here's a little round up of some of the latest benchslaps coming out of the Windy City.

Judge Posner's Benchslaps During Oral Arguments

Earlier this month we posted on the Seventh Circuit's opinion, written by Judge Posner, affirming a district court's denial of Notre Dame's motion for a preliminary injunction in a contraception mandate case. Apparently, the court's opinion may be getting as much press as some of the interactions between the bench and Notre Dame's attorney Matthew Kairis during oral arguments.

Above the Law was kind enough to give some highlights:

  • 12:10 - Posner to Kairis: "Don't interrupt me, please -- let me finish."
  • 13:10 - Posner to Kairis: "Answer my question. Don't fence with me."
  • 15:27 - Posner to Kairis: "Stop fencing with me. I gave you a very simple example ...."
  • 16:17 - Posner to Kairis: "You. Answer. My. Question!" Kairis to Posner: "I am!"
  • 16:25 - Posner to Kairis: "If you don't cooperate with me, I'm not going to let you continue your argument."

You can listen for more in a recording of the oral arguments, but you probably get the idea. What do you think? Was Judge Posner too hard on Matthew Kairis?

Judge Easterbrook Sanctions Attorney for False Representations

In a criminal case decided in February, Judge Easterbrook benchslapped the defendant's appellate attorney who "made it unduly hard for us to access the materials necessary for disposition," because the appendices to the brief he filed did not contain all of the relevant materials. Because of his deceit in violation of Circuit Rule 30(d), Judge Easterbrook sanctioned him to pay a $2,000 fine and warned him "that any further deceit will lead to an order requiring Brindley to show cause why he should not be suspended or disbarred." Ouch.

Judge Posner 's Show Cause Order

Most recently, Judge Posner issued a scathing decision -- and no one was safe. Not the defendant, not the defendant's lawyer, not even the district court judge. Judge Posner reprimanded the defendant and her attorney, also the district judge for taking too long to resolve matters. Among the many smackdowns in this case, our favorite occured when Posner called the appellate brief "a gaunt, pathetic document."

While at first glance these benchslaps seem harsh, they really aren't that bad. Why should federal circuit judges tolerate deceit and insubordination? If anything, they're calling things for what they are.

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