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Nastygrams to Opposing Counsel: How Far Is Too Far?

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Sometimes, civility will not do. Your opposing counsel pushes every single one of your buttons, and hell, you're nobody's doormat. 

But how far do you go? Sharp tones, a threat of sanctions, or gasp, a profanity or two? And what else makes a good "F U" letter? Are there any other ways to irk opposing counsel?

We've got a few ideas.

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Crossing the Line

A recent district court opinion from Manhattan shines some light on the line. The court warned an attorney that her conduct went too far, even though she claimed that she was provoked.

"In the realm of professional conduct," Judge P. Kevin Castel wrote, "provocation is, at most, a mitigating circumstance and not a complete defense to wrongful conduct; the same is true under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines ... and the rules of the fifth-grade classroom."

What'd the lawyer do? She told opposing counsel "You're an a------" and "Don't f--- me."

According to the ABA Journal, she also accused the opposing lawyer of unethical behavior but "implied that the behavior would be exposed if, but only if, counsel filed a motion directed to her client's conduct." She also initially claimed to have had conversations with opposing counsel, but later conceded that she hadn't.

We're not tossing out her name (even if the court did), but we will say this: The language itself doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Everyone has wanted to call opppsing counsel an "a------" or worse, and really, who runs to the court and tattles?

What likely nudged things over the line here was the weird quid-pro-quo proposal and false claims of recorded conversations.

'F U' Reply Letters

We recently provided some tips for writing the perfect "F U" response letter. Among those tips were to play to your strengths (be funny if you are funny, otherwise don't try), make sure you have the law behind you, make them feel stupid, end with a threat, and then, most importantly...

Sit on it. Write a harsh letter, but sleep on it. Read it again when emotions have calmed and see if you really need to be that harsh.

And if you need examples, we have a couple lined up for you.

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