Sometimes a little effort goes a long way. Just ask one lawyer, Mr. Puricelli (who represented a man successfully in a civil rights case), who got upbraided for repeatedly failing to fix typos in his court filings. The judge described Mr. Puricelli’s written work as “careless, to the point of disrespectful,” and agreed with the defendants that it was “vague, ambiguous, unintelligible, verbose and repetitive.” What were some of the mistakes? Per the judge:
Throughout the litigation, Mr. Puricelli identified the court as “THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTER [sic] DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.” Considering the religious persuasion of the presiding officer, the “Passover” District would have been more appropriate.” [Judge Jacob Hart, presiding]
Mr. Puricelli, on the other hand, felt the court didn’t understand his side of the story. When the defendant asked the court to reduce Mr. Puricelli’s fees [that they were required by law to pay] due to his typos, Mr. Puricelli wrote this reply to the court:
Had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff’s counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones.
Do you think the judge reduced Mr. Puricelli’s fees?
He did. He excluded 32.1 hours completely, cut Mr. Puricelli’s hourly rate of $300 to $150 for 209 hours, and paid him his full rate of $300 for 470 hours. Maybe, when you’re asking a judge to approve your attorney’s fees, you should spell the judge’s name right! Per Judge Hart:
If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant. However, based on the history of the case and Mr. Puricelli’s filings, we know otherwise. Finally, in the most recent letter to the court, asking that we vacate the settlement agreement, Mr. Puricelli identifies the undersigned as ‘Honorable Jacon [sic] Hart.’ I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in the Lord of the Rings, but alas, I am but a judge.
You can read Judge Hart’s Memorandum and Order here. The case is Devore v. City of Philadelphia from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (not reported in F.Supp.2d) No. 00-3598.