Enough already, judge tells wordy attorneys

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).