September 5, 2008
"I Don't Eat Apples, Your Honor"
A District Committee of the Virginia State Bar imposed a reprimand with terms on an attorney for misconduct in a trial held in the District of Columbia Superior Court. The attorney had represented the plaintiff in a discrimination case tried before a jury and had "persistently violated established rules of procedure" and "accused the Court of bias in favor of the defendant and...persisted in making the accusation, throughout the trial and in her closing argument to the jury." The reprimand recites numerous instances from the trial transcript, with one highlight being the response to the judge's comment that the lawyer was being given "a free bite of the apple." The rejoinder: "I don't eat apples, Your Honor."
Note: the jury had found for the plaintiff. The judge set aside that verdict, concluding that the jury had felt unduly sympathetic to the plaintiff because of counsel's conduct. At retrial, the jury found for the defendant. This matter reminds me of a comment made by the prosecutor (played by Ted Danson) to the defense lawyer (played by William Hurt) in the classic movie Body Heat: "Ned, I've underestimated you. You use your incompetence as a weapon." (Mike Frisch)
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