“A petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter…”

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2011

People are talking about the Fifth Circuit’s opinion (written by Judge Jerry Smith) in the “disgruntled cheerleader mom” case:

Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court. We find no error and affirm.

{ 1 trackback }

Is Samantha Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District The Best Decision Ever Written? | Popehat
07.22.11 at 5:25 pm

{ 7 comments }

1 marco73 07.22.11 at 7:24 am

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

2 Melvin H. 07.22.11 at 2:38 pm

Talk about a smackdown, both on the plaintiff–and her parents!–and the girl’s lawyers! Shame this could not have been declared frivolous.

P.S. I doubt she’ll be going to her high school’s class reunion in a few years….

3 VMS 07.23.11 at 12:18 am

24 pages is a lot to devote to “a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court. ” I guess the 5th Circuit didn’t have anything more important to write about!

4 Bobo McGill 07.23.11 at 9:48 am

The lesson here is this: never launch a personal attack on the judge who rendered the ruling below. It’s entirely unnecessary. I’m sure the folks sitting on a federal appellate panel are smart enough to recognize when the trial judge didn’t know what he/she was doing. You don’t have to call the trial judge an incompetent or an idiot in your brief. When you do that, the appellate court is going to start looking for reasons to affirm. Where, as in this case, the lawyer for the appellant calls the trial judge an incompetent and it turns out that he wasn’t – well, that’s a recipe for disaster.

That being said, I wonder if the Court anticipated the publicity this opinion would draw? The Court’s comments on the merits of the suit and the quality of the briefing – having now gone viral – certainly damaged (if not destroyed) the careers of the two lawyers who represented the plaintiff. Perhaps they deserved it. I don’t know. I would hope, however, that judges sitting in such positions of power try and remember what it was like to be in private practice. I am not excusing the poor performance here, but, inevitably, there are times when a lawyer (especially a young lawyer) makes mistakes in judgment that defy common sense. Most of the time, judges are gracious enough to let it slide. Here, I think the panel was so incensed by the personal attack on the Magistrate Judge that it decided to strike back. I’m not sure Judge Smith would have been as harsh if he had foreseen that his opinion would garner this much attention.

5 Bob Lipton 07.23.11 at 8:33 pm

Bobo, whether or not they might have learned better in the future, their deeds earned them this rebuke. By the time a lawyer has passed the bar and been sworn in as an officer of the court, he should have achieved some discretion.

Bob

6 David Eggers 07.25.11 at 1:57 am

Bobo, do lawyer’s with high career ambitions really work on cases as petty and dumb as this?

7 Doug 07.25.11 at 8:41 am

they do because they are hungry.

Comments on this entry are closed.