OBJECTION! Interrupting lawyer gets rare sanction
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A federal judge in Iowa meted out an unusual punishment to a lawyer for repeatedly raising objections and interrupting depositions: She must produce a training video showing why such tactics are inappropriate.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, her law firm objected to the ruling.
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett issued the "outside-the-box sanction" last week to Chicago-based attorney June Ghezzi, a partner at the international law firm Jones Day.
Bennett criticized Ghezzi's pretrial conduct in a case in which she successfully defended Abbott Laboratories against a lawsuit alleging that its infant formula contained dangerous bacteria that caused a baby to suffer brain damage. He wrote that during depositions, Ghezzi "proliferated hundreds of unnecessary objections and interruptions" that appeared to coach witnesses on how to answer questions and delayed the proceedings.
Bennett said that rather than issuing a monetary fine against Ghezzi, he wanted to take a stand against "obstructive deposition practices" that are common and that some litigators are even taught to use.
With that goal in mind, Bennett ordered Ghezzi to write and produce a training video that "provides specific steps lawyers must take to comply" with the rationale of his opinion. He said the video must address the impropriety of lawyers vaguely objecting to the form of questions, coaching witnesses and excessively interrupting. Bennett noted that some jurisdictions specifically allow "form objections" and the video could explain where those are located.
He said the video must be filed with his chambers. If he approves its content, the video must then be made available to all Jones Day lawyers worldwide who either appear in U.S. state and federal courts or work in practices where other lawyers do.
Bennett said his order must be followed within 90 days, but that he would put it on hold if the sanction is appealed.
Jones Day attorney Dan Reidy said in a statement Tuesday that the firm plans to appeal. He said Ghezzi's conduct "was appropriate and violated no rule of law or of the court," and he noted that the plaintiffs' lawyer didn't complain at the time.
"Jones Day believes it was error to order it and its partner to provide training to all of its litigating attorneys, which would teach them this Court's particular approach to certain issues, despite the existence of published rules in other courts which are diametrically opposed," Reidy wrote.