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How to Politely Trash Opposing Counsel in a Pleading

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Yes, you have a duty to be civil with the court, your clients, opposing counsels, and even opposing parties. That means refraining from ad hominem attacks against judges, individuals, and even your opposing counsel, no matter how badly they're annoying you. Seriously, you can get disciplined.

However, there are several ways to sneak in polite trash talking into your pleadings. And while non-lawyers might see the language and think nothing of it, when it gets read by a lawyer, the natural tendency is to shout out: "Shots fired!"

Below, you'll find some magic language that is sure to get under your opposing counsel's skin without raising the ire of the court.

Point Out Opposing Counsel's Material Mistakes

Nothing irks the court more than lawyers being petty. But followed closely behind that is when lawyers get the law or the facts wrong in a case. Rather than telling the court your opponent fails at life, or is as stupid as the day is long, take a deep breath and just point out the failings in their motion, or other pleading. Consider phrases like:

  • Opposing counsel fails to state ...
  • Defendant's counsel misstates the facts ...
  • Plaintiff's counsel misrepresents the holding of the case ...

Basically, instead of using the party name or designation when controverting an issue or statement, you put in "opposing," "plaintiff's," or "defendant's" counsel. It's a rather subtle jab that really bothers some of the more sensitive attorneys out there, and it can also quench that sense of vengeance you've been cultivating. Yes it's weak trash talking, but what did you expect in the combination of professionalism and trash talking?

Show, Don't Tell

If opposing counsel has truly been a nightmare to work with, and now you have to move the court for an extension for good cause, or otherwise point out the other side's bad behavior, forget the usual lawyer training of stating the obvious over and over again. If you just tell the court, it looks like petty lawyer squabbling.

Courts do not like attorneys squabbling, and if you can't show clear evidence of the other side's attorney's lack of professionalism, don't bother telling the court (unless you're a real risk taker). If there's an expletive laced email, don't just attach it, include direct censored quotes in your pleading. Just be careful if you live in a glass house, as stones can be thrown back at you.

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