Civil Law? Chief Judge Edith Jones to Judge Sam Sparks: Be Nice

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's not-so-secretly the highlight of our day when a judge takes a bumbling lawyer to task in an opinion. That's probably because we're cozily nestled behind our computers writing about the law, unafraid of incurring a judge's ire in the courtroom.

But when a judge has words with, or rather for, another judge, it's even better. To wit: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edith Jones, does not enjoy reviewing snarky opinions on appeal.

Chief Judge Jones recently sent an email to U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin, Texas regarding his sarcastic comments on the job, saying, "Frankly, this kind of rhetoric is not funny. In fact, it is so caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous that it casts more disrespect on the judiciary than on the now-besmirched reputation of the counsel," reports ABA Journal.

What kinds of comments prompt a reprimand from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals?

In 2007, Sparks dismissed a Motion for Protection with a rhyming couplet ordering the litigants to "work out their infantile problem with the deposition," reports Above the Law.

Judge Sparks was particularly ornery in August. First, Sparks invited two bickering attorneys to a "kindergarten party" to learn basic skills including "not wasting the time of a busy federal judge and his staff because you are unable to practice law at the level of a first-year law student."

Later, Sparks publicly labeled an attorney who filed a motion for leave to file an amicus brief in a controversial case as incompetent, noting, "A competent attorney who did those things would be deliberately disrespecting this Court and knowingly shirking his professional responsibilities ... For [the attorney's] sake, the Court assumes [the attorney] is as incompetent as he appears."

Chief Judge Jones was not amused.

Jones claims that Judge Sparks' sharp-tongued manner is out of order, admonishing, "No judge who writes an order should allow such rhetoric to overcome common sense."

We respectfully disagree with Chief Judge Jones: Judge Sam Sparks may be demeaning and disrespectful, but he is pretty damn funny.

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