As the trial progressed, the court systematically deconstructed the other side's case. Among other rulings, the judge crucially excluded their sole expert witness (as to my clients). As a result, the other side would be unable to prove liability against my clients on almost all of their claims.
Then, we embarked on a mini-trial on whether the remains of plaintiffs' case would be barred by the statute of limitations. The court expressed disdain for the plaintiffs' lack of preparation on this issue in particular. Counsel failed to obtain the Delaware record showing that the corporation was in good standing at the complaint's filing. This omission continued with various excuses (mostly blaming his clients) culminating in the judge sharply rebuking the other attorney with this precise quote: "Counsel, that is ludicrous!"
The context of this rebuke is too delicious to omit. First, counsel said he delegated the task of obtaining the record to the CEO (see prior post). Then, when that resulted in no record, he--against the court's instruction--allegedly delegated it to another of his clients, who was in Texas. When that client didn't get the record into court on time, the court's patience wore thinner than the attorney's credibility. The judge demanded that the attorney immediately call the second client and find out where the long-overdue document was.
Here's where it got especially amusing. The attorney came back into court and said that he tried to reach the second client, but he couldn't reach him--he got voicemail. About five minutes later, the clerk announced to the court that this same client--the Texas guy--was calling into the courtroom. The clerk observed that it was odd that while counsel said he was unreachable, he was calling the court. At this point, the other attorney thought he would jump in with his interpretation as follows: "That's why I couldn't reach him; he was calling the court!" The court thundered: "Counsel, that is ludicrous! How can you possibly say with a straight face that you were unable to reach him five minutes ago because he is calling the court five minutes later?" Silence ensued.
As the trial progressed, the court also deconstructed my opposing counsel's psyche in other ways. The judge constantly corrected him for various misdeeds. These included: speaking outside the record, i.e. evidence; opening his mouth and shaking his head in disbelief; submitting improperly formatted papers; citing authorities outside of California without copies for the court (and counsel); speaking too rapidly for the court reporter to record; clicking his pen incessantly (and being placed on pen restriction--twice); and you probably guessed it: he walked into the well during trial. (See September 12, 2006, post.)
All of this deconstruction led to an unprecedented moment. On Thursday morning, I arrived at court ready to hear the other side's argument on the statute of limitations. At this point, I observed there were no papers in front of my counterpart. Without warning, he announced that his clients had lost confidence in him and had terminated his services. He asked permission to leave. The court said he couldn't leave until his clients agreed to substitute him out in favor of a new attorney. The clients asked for a continuance to get another attorney. The court denied the continuance, and asked if they would be making an argument on the statute of limitations. At this point, an argument ensued. However, it was an argument between the attorney and his clients about whether he could or should make the argument. The court interrupted this dispute. Eventually the attorney argued his points. The court took this issue under submission.
Before the ruling, and after demanding one million dollars, the other side essentially abandoned their claims, and the case was over.
However, this end occurred only after the other attorney was fired; announced he was leaving the profession (because of this case); and expected to receive a summons and complaint for attorney malpractice.
Bad day at the office. Not so bad for my side, though.