Lawyers who don’t write succinctly have been taken to task by yet another judge.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III, who clearly knows how to turn a phrase, said in a ruling last week that “a troubling trend toward prolixity in pleading is infecting court dockets in this district and elsewhere.”
The federal judge’s ruling came in a case involving the decision by United Parcel Service Inc. to terminate a franchise owned by Robert and Thomas Hagan.
UPS, Pauley wrote, had a 175-paragraph case with more than 1,400 pages of exhibits. The Hagans filed a 210-page answer with what Pauley described as “voluminous exhibits.” A subsequent filing contained a “breathtaking 1,263 paragraphs, spanning 303 pages.”
The judge, while expressing his frustration in this case, made clear that his concern was widespread.
“As this case illustrates, a growing number of attorneys, from solo practitioners to ‘big law’ partners are ignoring Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that require a ‘‘short and plain statement of the claim.’’
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a proposed disciplinary action against a lawyer who had filed a jargon-filled petition written by a client, but only after Williams & Connolly LLP had stepped in to plead the lawyer’s case.
William Brewer, of Bickel & Brewer, last week became co- counsel in the UPS case representing the franchisee contesting their termination.
‘‘The judge did a phenomenal job of sorting out the facts to get to a substantive understanding of the dispute,’’ Brewer said. Pauley was right, he said, to criticize complicated filings with alternative pleadings that might be viewed as inconsistent.
‘‘Judge Pauley did everyone a service.’’ Brewer said. ‘‘Although he picked out one case, it’s clear this has been bothering him. He did all lawyers a favor by reminding us to sharpen both our pencils and our advocacy.’’
Peter Ellis of Reed Smith LLP and Mark McDonald of Morrison & Foerster LLP are listed on court filings as among the lawyers representing UPS. Neither Ellis nor McDonald responded to e- mails seeking comment.
Pauley’s ruling was reported earlier by the ABA Journal.
The case is a reminder, Brewer said, that ‘‘lawyers sometimes forget the difference between having something to say and having something intelligent or important to say.’’
The case is UPS Store Inc. v. Hagan, 1:14-cv-01210, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).