Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Robert Duvall Moment.

In the film, A Civil Action, Robert Duvall's character--a trial attorney--gets up from counsel's table, picks up his distressed briefcase and walks out of an ongoing trial. Duvall departed early because he managed to get his client dismissed while the case was pending as to other parties.

I had one of those moments last week.

We had a mini-trial on an threshold issue set in federal court. At the same time, I had scheduled a motion requesting that the Court dismiss my client. Through the motion, I hoped to educate the Court and the opposing party that there was no merit to the claim against my client, and thereby engineer a pre-trial dismissal. While the motion represented an uphill battle to get a court-ordered dismissal at that time, the Court "got it" and used his tentative ruling to warn the opposing side about keeping my client in the proceedings.

At the end of the ruling, the judge said that he hoped his ruling would provide "guidance" to the other side, and that any "willful deafness" to his admonition would be viewed harshly.

Amazingly, the other attorney did not recognize the "guidance" in the ruling and requested that the Court educate her some more. With a thinly veiled smirk, the judge said that he had thought the ruling was quite clear as to the nonviability of the claim, but said that he would elaborate.

The federal judge remarkably said that the other attorney's head was "on a chopping block" and that--this time--the proverbial "blade missed [her] neck by one-quarter of an inch."

Recognizing the opportunity, I suggested that it would be an appropriate time for my client to be dismissed from the case. The other attorney agreed to do precisely that on the record before testimony commenced. Upon the dismissal, which I had orchestrated through my pretrial motion, the Court's parting shot was "nice knowing you gentlemen." The Court's comment came as my client and I strode out of the courtroom to handshakes and backslaps from the other counsel representing other defendants who had not yet extricated themselves from the case.

I love it when a plan comes together.