Someone posted to YouTube a short video of a particularly horrific deposition excerpt, captioned “Joe Jamail and takes a deposition defended by Edward Carstarphen. Hilarity ensues.” Well, not exactly.
Joe Jamail is a famous Texas lawyer, who has won some big cases and collected some giant fees. Most notably, Jamail represented Pennzoil against Texaco and won a jury verdict for $10.53 billion, then the largest jury verdict ever. Texaco later settled for $3 billion, and Jamail pocketed a third of that.
I suppose it is possible that Mr. Jamail had been smarting from the loss of his title as world’s rudest lawyer. As reported in the National Law Journal in April, 2000,
Until recently, the classic example of incivility in litigation was famed Texas lawyer Joe Jamail’s defense of a deposition witness in the 1993 Paramount-QVC Network-Viacom takeover battle. According to the excerpts of the deposition transcript included in an addendum to an opinion by the Delaware Supreme Court, Jamail told the examining lawyer that he could ‘gag a maggot off a meat wagon’ and made other vituperative remarks that the Delaware court labeled ‘extraordinarily rude, uncivil and vulgar.’ . … Mr. Jamail’s ‘maggot’ rhetoric has now been displaced by a new classic in incivility: a pre-suit letter sent by a New York litigator that threatened the prospective defendant with the ‘legal equivalent of a proctology exam’ if the plaintiff’s claim weren’t satisfied without litigation.
Maybe he wanted his title back.
I’ll just note, without further comment, that the endowed chair held by Brian Leiter at UT is named after Joe Jamail.
I think something got garbled in the reporting – the original line seems to be, from one lawyer to another law firm:
“I have no desire to fan the flames of an emotional dispute. Nor do I have the desire to conduct the legal equivalent of a proctology exam on your finances and billing practices.”
That’s pretty funny.
And, amusingly, this blog is the #1 hit for a google search on the exact phrase: “legal equivalent of a proctology exam”:
I think this deposition was pre-posterior-invasive-examinations based on the dress of the deponent.
“Nor do I have the desire to conduct the legal equivalent of a proctology exam on your finances and billing practices.”
Nothing was garbled in the original reporting – that IS a threat. It is essentially equivalent to the mob asking for “protection” money: “I’d hate to see somebody get hurt.”
The person who wrote that line was basically saying, “Give us what we want, or we will make your life miserable by filing for copies of everything we possibly have a chance to get, and then we’ll make as much of it public as we legally can.” That’s a threat.
The *threat* was EXPLICIT. I found the full case:
“I apologize in advance for the harshness of this letter. I have no desire to fan the flames of an emotional dispute. Nor do I have the desire to conduct the legal equivalent of a proctology exam on your finances and billing practices. Yet, I will not hesitate to do so unless you begin to act in a responsible manner.”
What seems to have gotten garbled is the sense of “proctology exam”. It’s *not*, “I’ll do unto you like a proctologist does unto a patient”. But rather “I don’t want to be doing proctology on your work, because of what I’ll have to wade through”. It’s still a threat in a way, but it’s much more humorously stated. Crudely, “I don’t want to have to go through all your sh*t”, stated in an amusing turn of phrase.