April 07, 2006
The Joe Jamail Video
Posted by Christine Hurt

This video, which features the vocal stylings of Joseph D. Jamail, has been going around listservs and blogs today.  (Tip:  Fellow UT alum Bill Childs at TortsProf Blog).  Note that the man in the video is the witness, not Joe Jamail.  Unfortunately for those who have practiced in Texas at all, this video is unsurprising.  Although Mr. Jamail has been very generous to UT law school and has won some very big verdicts, including a whopper in the Texaco v. Pennzoil case, Mr. Jamail continues to be a little rough around the edges.  Depo excerpts showing his less than classy side are circulated with some frequency. 

If you teach the M&A case Paramount Communications, Inc. v. QVC Network, Inc., 637 A.2d 34 (1994), pull the unedited version and you'll notice that the Delaware Supreme Court even takes a few pages to criticize Mr. Jamail, who presented Hugh Liedtke, Paramount director and (more importantly to Mr. Jamail) founder of Pennzoil, for deposition in Texas in that case.  In the last section, entitled "Addendum," the court begins:  "Although this Addendum has no bearing on the outcome of the case, it relates to a serious issue of professionalism involving deposition practice in proceedings in Delaware trial courts."  After quoting Jamail extensively from a depo transcript, the court basically tells him that this conduct will not be tolerated in Delaware (implying that Texas may be uncivilized, but Delaware definitely is not), and that if he ever wants to be allowed to appear in Delaware pro hac vice, he has 30 days to appear and explain his behavior.  I wonder if he did?  More importantly, I wonder if there is video of that?

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Comments (4)

1. Posted by David Zaring on April 8, 2006 @ 12:20 | Permalink

Wow - that is worth seeing. Takes me back, too. I remember that in one of the first depositions I defended I fought about everything, including how long the breaks would be. But I did so verbally. And with less cussing.

2. Posted by Scott Moss on April 8, 2006 @ 15:34 | Permalink

What's most striking to me is that this is not only rude/unprofessional, but tactically dumb. Even the most hotheaded litigators I know were smart enough to act like little angels when the cameras were on. I know two nut-job litigators who went at it in literally dozens of deps, and eventually, they BOTH were bringing cameras: the dep-taker was recording the witness, and the dep-defender was taping the attorney taking the dep! It was pretty bizarre, but it actually worked: both sides acted like adults for once. I joked (with the one I worked with) that I'd start carrying a videocamera around the office all day so he'd act like that all the time....

On a more personal note, back before I retired to academia, I'd done maybe hundreds of depositions, and I admit to my share of raised-voice disputes in a few of them (including once telling a lawyer to "sit down").... But I've never seen anything like this at a dep. And I was in New York, where the litigators aren't known as wilting flowers.

I definitely have seen behavior this bad outside deps, including screaming profanities and the like (not by me, in case anyone is getting the wrong idea -- I'm pretty sure I never used profanity with opposing counsel, and I certainly never called anyone "fat boy" or anything like that; I saved those comments for tirades among coworkers about crazy opposing lawyers).

3. Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on April 8, 2006 @ 15:44 | Permalink

"Lawyers Behaving Badly" was fairly routine back when I was involved taking depositions in the 1980s, but I too am shocked that lawyers forget there is a camera running nowadays. This kind of nonsense would show up on the written transcript, but it never had the same effect Is this the effect of reality TV? Ozzie Osbourne takes a deposition? Sue-vivor?

My favorite story is the time I witnessed two Jewish lawyers came about as close to a fist fight like this one, the issue being which of them was an anti-Semite.

It went something like this:

Lawyer A (defending): Objection. He has already testified that [blah, blah, blah].

Lawyer B (questioning): Mr. A, please state your objection and refrain from testifying yourself. You are coaching the witness.

Lawyer A: I will make objections however I want.

Lawyer B: We can do without your ex cathedra statements.

Lawyer A: I can't make ex cathedra statements, I'm Jewish.

Lawyer B: That's obvious.

Lawyer A: What do you mean by that?

Lawyer B: Just what it sounds like.

Lawyer A: Do you want to take this outside?

At which point, one of the others of us in the room said something like "Mr. Cohen, Mr. Katz, let's all calm down."

4. Posted by Sub Specie AEternitatis on April 11, 2006 @ 14:31 | Permalink

Prof. Hurt asked whether Mr. Jamail ever responded to the Delaware Supreme Court's invitiation to defend his behavior.

As a matter of fact he did. With his usual understated class and style, he "responded in the press with vulgarities and insults, stating, “I’d rather has [sic] a nose on my ass than go to Delaware for any reason,” since, he believes, the Delaware Supreme Court has animosity for “exceptional lawyers” like himself." http://www.nixonpeabody.com/publications_detail3.asp?Type=P&PAID=0&ID=303&Bro=&Hot=&NLID=0

I first came across this comment as a 1L in Civ Pro class and started to worry about the unpleasant prospect of dealing with the likes of Mr. Jamail on a regular basis. Fortunately, after a couple years of practice, I can say that I have always had polite and professional relationships with opposing counsel.

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