I think as lawyers and advocates, we are always tempted to engage in some hyperbole and take a potshot or two at the judge. But, after a couple of years, most of us learn how to deal with that temptation. Not one lawyer in Chicago named Calvita Frederick. Ms. Frederick represented a woman who failed the Illinois medical school exam. Her lawsuit alleged that the medical school did not give her time to request accommodations for her disability. Judge Steven C. Seeger of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the plaintiff had sued the wrong entity. The National Board of Medical Examiners actually has the responsibility for granting accommodations, not the medical school, said the judge.

Ms. Frederick then filed a motion to amend the judgment, essentially asking the court to re-consider its ruling. The motion started with an expression of “all due and maximum respect” for the court. But, the lawyer then took several potshots at the judge. Such as:

  • Seeger was “mistaken and/or deliberately chose to disregard the evidence in the record”
  • Someone else, perhaps a court clerk, actually wrote the decision and made “manifest errors of facts and law”
  • Seeger did not recognize the need to “do adequate research on the topic before issuing a ruling”
  • Any litigant is entitled to a “presiding officer who knows the law”

Ms. Frederick was accusing the judge of incompetence. In his decision, Judge Seeger said he could go on with more examples. Counsel certainly did, added Judge Seeger. “After 28 pages, Counsel finally ran out of gas.”

Judge Seeger noted that sometimes we say things in our head that we would not say out loud. And, some of us say things out loud which we would not say in court. The judge then noted that Ms. Frederick threw more punches than she pulled. He said he was not so much offended. Judges do not become federal judges by lacking a tough hide. But, standards of civility exist for a reason. He said some words came to his mind about her motion, but he would keep them to himself.

The Judge suggested Ms. Frederick re-draft her motion n and re-file it. He said some people do better after a good night’s sleep with the opportunity to re-think what they have said. His opinion was dated March 9. By March 20, Ms. Frederick had filed nothing. See ABA Bar Journal report here.

It is also very likely that Ms. Frederick will find herself the subject of a sanctions order. Some, not many, federal judges would not have given her a second chance. It never ceases to amaze me that some folks think insults are persuasive.