Judge: lawyers’ acts of misbehavior “make me feel like a school marm scolding little boys”

After reading deposition exchanges “related in excruciating, repetitive detail,” Nevada U. S. Magistrate Peggy A. Leen felt called on to admonish lawyers on both sides:

If I was an elementary school teacher instead of a judge I would require both counsel to write the following clearly established legal rules on a blackboard 500 times:

I will not make speaking, coaching, suggestive objections which violate Rule 30(c)(2). I am an experienced lawyer and know that objections must be concise, non-argumentative and non-suggestive. I understand that the purpose of a deposition is to find out what the witness thinks, saw, heard or did. I know that lawyers are not supposed to coach or change the witness’s own words to form a legally convenient record. I know I am prohibited from frustrating or impeding the fair examination of a deponent during the deposition. I know that constant objections and unnecessary remarks are unwarranted and frustrate opposing counsel’s right to fair examination. I know that speaking objections such as “if you remember,” “if you know,” “don’t guess,” “you’ve answered the question,” and “do you understand the question” are designed to coach the witness and are improper. I also know that counsel’s interjection that he or she does not understand the question is not a proper objection, and that if a witness needs clarification of a question, the witness may ask for the clarification.

[Order in Mazzeo v. Gibbons et al., Trial Ad Notes via Day on Torts]


  • If I was an elementary school teacher…

    Her poor grammar indicates that she’s not qualified.

  • No, I think the subject/verb agreement is correct.

  • The way she has written it – “If I was an elementary school teacher” – the meaning is that she actually could be one, but that she isn’t quite sure. (Like in “If I was rude to you yesterday” (which I don’t think I was, but you never know))

    Clearly, she ought to know that she isn’t, never has been, and that she is a judge. So the sentence should be “If I were an elementary school teacher” – that’s the subjunctive.

  • I think I see your point.

  • @ Le Mur
    A Magistrate Judge’s ability to understand, apply and communicate the law is not adequately measured by her grasp of the finer points of grammar. The excerpt above indicates that Judge Leen is well versed in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and is capable of expressing her dissatisfaction with the manner in which those rules are applied by counsel in her courtroom.

    Your assumption that perfect grammar, while a laudable goal, is also an essential qualification for an arbiter of justice indicates that you are not qualified to pass judgment on the legal system.