Federal Judge Admonishes Lawyers for “Jerry Springer” Style Briefs

Because of “disrespectful” and “provocative” words, a federal judge in Miami ordered lawyers in a case against Royal Caribbean Cruises to rewrite multiple court filings. U.S. District Court judge Donald L. Graham of the Southern District of Florida ordered attorneys on both sides to rewrite  motion papers and even requested that the lawyers address whether the case could be referred to the federal court’s attorney grievance committee.

Image Source: cruisingwithkids.co.uk

According to Judge Graham, the filed documents reads like a newspaper article or a segment from a Jerry Springer show. “These filings are chock-full of offensive language and jabs,” the Judge wrote.

The Judge wrote, “these filings are riddled with inflammatory language and insults directed at the parties and their counsel. A professional pleading does not cast aspersions toward attorneys, parties, or witnesses. The attorneys in this matter seem to have disregarded the tenets of professionalism and ethical conduct set forth by the Florida Bar Oath of Admission and Creed of Professionalism.”

The Florida Bar Oath of Admission, which every attorney licensed in the state of Florida swears to obey, states in part,

“To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications. I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged.”

Image Source: tcpaworld.com

The law firms released public statements apologizing for the filings and submitting reworked documents (here and here).

Judge Graham made his request in a lawsuit filed by the family of an eighteen month toddler who died after her grandfather lost his grip on her and she fell through a cruise ship window. The suit filed by the guardians of Chloe Wiegand alleged that Royal Caribbean Cruises was aware that children could fall from windows overlooking the pool deck, and that the measures taken to address the risk violated of industry standards. Chloe’s grandfather has since pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in Puerto Rico.

Judge Graham was irritated by the following sections in the parties filings:

  • Plaintiffs accused Royal Caribbean of “misleading specialists,” “attempting to deceive this notable court,” and engaging in “corporate conduct that appears to know no bounds“.
  • Plaintiffs accused Royal Caribbean of making “merciless efforts to frame an innocent man, intentionally destroy evidence, and mislead this Honorable Court (and the U.S. Coast Guard and the Puerto Rican authorities).”
  • Royal Caribbean’s description of Plaintiffs’ Motion as, “beyond disingenuous,” and “a salacious, unfounded and libelous hit piece.”

What do you think? Is this kind of language par for the course in a heated litigation or should the attorneys have written in a more civil manner?

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