Cartoon sad pig lawyer animal character in grey costume isolated in white background.

In case you were unsure, it’s probably not a good idea to call your judge a succubus.


Mythological Female Demon Succubus

An interesting case came down from the California Court of Appeal Fourth Appellate District.  It should serve as a warning to any attorney practicing in California.  The underlying case had to do with an appeal of a trial court’s order relating to an employment dispute.  The case is Martinez v. O’Hara, No. G054840 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th. App. Dist. Feb 28, 2019).   The portion of the opinion of most interest to family law attorneys is the section regarding attorney misconduct.

The lesson?  Don’t include gender bias against a judicial officer in your pleadings.

Any manifestation of gender bias on the part of an attorney is misconduct and can get that attorney reported to the bar for discipline.

It’s unusual for me to learn new vocabulary words when I read an appellate opinion.  In this case, the plaintiff’s lawyer used some strange words.  Perhaps it’s time to pull out a dictionary.succubus word in a dictionary. succubus concept.

Apparently, the Notice of Appeal signed by the plaintiff’s attorney contained the obscure word, “succubustic.”  The Court of Appeal provided the definition of “succubus.”  It’s defined as a “demon assuming female form which has sexual intercourse with men in their sleep.” Nice.

Said the Court, “We publish this portion of the opinion to make the point that gender bias by an attorney appearing before us will not be tolerated, period.”  To illustrate their point, the Appellate court reported the offending lawyer to the State Bar.

The Court zeroed in on the following passage in the notice of appeal as particularly offensive:

“Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1 et seq., Plaintiff Fernando Martinez hereby appeals from the lower court’s disgraceful order dated November 30, 2016, as incorporated into a reported judgment dated Febryary 21, 2017, and [as] such, technically appeals from that judgment.  The ruling’s succubustic adoption of the defense position, and resulting validation of the defendant’s pseudohermaphroditic misconduct, prompt one to reverse peristalsis unto its four corners.”

[Emphasis added.]

Pomposity in legal writing is not particularly persuasive

Aside from being horribly written, this statement is just stupid. I wonder if counsel even knew what the words “succubustic” or “pseudohermaphroditic” mean. Surely, attorneys ought to know the exact meanings of their big words. Not only did this passage offend the sensibilities of the Court as a demonstration of bias, prejudice or harassment based on gender, but it is simply bad writing.

The court also found that statements in plaintiff’s briefs accusing the “trial court of intentionally refusing to follow the law” and suggesting that the “trial court tried to prevent plaintiff from receiving notice of the signed judgment in an effort to thwart appellate review” were made without any support in the record. As such, these statements also constituted reportable misconduct.

The appellate court aptly wrote in conclusion,

“We further note that many of the words and phrases in the notice of appeal have no place in a court filing.  We cannot understand why plaintiff’s counsel thought it wise, much less persuasive, to include the words ‘disgraceful,’ ‘pseudohermaphroditic misconduct,’ or ‘reverse peristalsis’ in the notice of appeal.”

The moral of the story? Don’t be a sexist pig

Be careful what you write in your briefs. Insult a judge at your peril. If your pleadings contain words demonstrating gender bias against a judicial officer, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a State Bar ethical complaint.

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