Why a law-firm partner should be careful about to whom he grants signature authority

by Ted Frank on June 5, 2008

(Update, June 6, 10:50 AM: According to a commenter, the “filing” is not actually a filing, but a doctored inside joke. Which is pretty funny.)

(Or, in the alternative, why you always check that you’ve printed the correct draft before you file.)

One strongly suspects the “signing” attorney in the defendants’ answer to the complaint in the Harris County, Texas case of Henry v. Maersk Line Limited did not actually authorize the tone of this filing (NSFW language). (A strong tip of the Overlawyered hat to long-time reader D.W.C., who once was a ground-breaking plaintiff of his own.)

{ 5 comments }

1 Doug 06.05.08 at 9:11 pm

pretty shocking language for any court filing.

2 Ed 06.05.08 at 9:24 pm

This filing violates the cardinal rule of the legal industry, which is to never tell the truth.

3 KRS 06.06.08 at 7:58 am

David Lat must still be asleep… I’m waiting for the ATL post and the 100 comments that will likely follow.

4 Scott Raynes 06.06.08 at 10:27 am

This was never filed. It was a joke within our office: this fake answer was created and doctored to make it look like it had been filed. It was then forwarded to Ayers, the partner on the case. Once David recovered from the shock and realized it was in jest, he forwarded it to the plaintiff’s lawyer (an old friend of his back when they were at Fulbright & Jaworski together) to share in the joke. The plaintiff’s attorney called Ayers to confirm that it was, indeed, a prank. There is no such filing in the case.

Scott Raynes
Werner Ayers, L.L.P.

5 Ken 06.06.08 at 11:47 am

Here is more about it being a joke.

Such jokes can be funny, but very dangerous.

In about 1989 I was a summer intern at the DA’s office in Los Angeles. One of my tasks was to coordinate a project where the office took pictures of bad guys who had been convicted, put them on posters trumpeting their conviction and sentence, and then posted them in their neighborhood. Pour encourager les autres, I guess.

Anyway, one poster featured a guy convicted of murder. As a joke on a Friday afternoon, the day after the poster had been put up, I left my supervisor a note saying there had been a dreadful mistake and that the guy pictured on the poster had not been convicted of murder, Cal. Penal Code section 187, but of improper operation of a lawn tractor, Los Angeles Municipal Code section 187 (which I made up). I figured he’d see it as a joke immediately.

Until I heard someone had called an emergency weekend meeting with the DA, the executive assistant, the media relations chief, and the head of special operations.

Oops.

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