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When Words are Not Enough for A Judge – Use a Cartoon

You have to hand it to a judge who uses a cartoon to make a forceful point.  And so US District judge Robert Jonkers used one for a Jones Day lawyers edification.

How come, you ask?

The judge’s problem was that the lawyer, Michael Ginsberg, had filed a motion in New Jersey state court to enjoin federal court proceedings in a case involving Cooper Industries—on the same day Ginsberg discussed scheduling issues in Jonker’s federal courtroom.

None of the parties at the case conference on Dec. 2 objected to federal court jurisdiction and Ginsberg “did not mention or even hint that he was planning to file a motion in New Jersey,” Jonker said.

“The court feels a bit like the character in the following cartoon,” Jonker wrote. The cartoon shows a man standing on his bed looking over a brick wall. “Well, was it something I said?” the cartoon character asks.

Jonker explained the comparison:

“Nobody likes having someone build or attempt to build a brick wall in a bedroom or a courtroom overnight, especially without providing even the common courtesy of advance notice of the attempt—especially when the interested parties are already gathered in the courtroom.

“More than that, at least in the Western District of Michigan, this kind of behavior by counsel would—barring some explanation—likely fall below the expected standard of practice for candor with the court and the other parties. Of course, there may be explanations or circumstances of which the court is unaware. Maybe it really was something the court said. Or maybe there is some other misunderstanding. But at a minimum, prompt explanation is needed.”

Jonker cites a “bedrock rule” that state courts generally have no power to enjoin federal court proceedings. He ordered Ginsberg to file papers explaining why he filed the New Jersey motion and why he didn’t disclose it during the federal court status conference.

Above the Law has Jonker’s order here.

ATL’s Joe Patrice opines that it’s “a special kind of embarrassing when a federal judge feels words are not enough” to call out alleged inappropriate behavior.

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