After seeing Michael’s post about Judge Spark’s order inviting counsel to a kindergarten party to teach squabbling counsel about how to resolve discovery disputes without oversight, I was curious about whether any other judge had ever used the phrase “kindergarten party” in a written opinion. While I agree with Michael that Judge Spark’s opinions go too far, and are too cruel and targeted to be appropriate, I do think there is a time and a place in judicial opinions for informal turns of phrase. Plus, it is always pretty entertaining when judges try and fail to sound “hip,” by wrongly employing the lingo that all the cool kids are using these days.
As it turns out, no one but Sparks has busted out the term kindergarten party, at least not in any reported order. So I looked into whether any similar phrases were in use, and found that no judge has ever sunk so low as to use the term “weaksauce” in a judicial opinion, and only one or two have referred to conduct as being “amateur hour.”
But I was pleased to see that quite a few judges have seen fit to use my personal favorite synonym for kindergarten party behavior, and have described litigants and attorneys alike as being “bush league.” Among those using the phrase are judges from the Mississippi Supreme Court (“I do not approve of what defense counsel did in this case, but compared to what happened in Cole, Darby’s lawyer is in a bush league. Darby v. State, 538 So. 2d 1168, 1178 (Miss. 1989)), the 7th Circuit (“But the confession was the beginning of the cooperation, for it was the confession that revealed that Rutledge was involved in more than bush-league drug dealing.” United States v. Rutledge, 900 F.2d 1127, 1131 (7th Cir. 1990)), and the 5th Circuit (“The betting began with bush-league sums in early June, 1970.” United States v. Burke, 495 F.2d 1226, 1230 (5th Cir. 1974)).
The 10th Circuit has joined in to — even accompanying its use of the phrase with a pretty terrible pun:
“Arguably, an etymologist would place the terms ‘slime’ and ‘sleazebag’ in the same league as ‘scum’; perhaps a bush league rather than a professional league, but nonetheless the same league.” Henderson v. Times Mirror Co., 669 F. Supp. 356, 361 (D. Colo. 1987) aff’d, 876 F.2d 108 (10th Cir. 1989).
Sadly, the 10th Circuit appears not to understand its own analogy, given that the whole point of having a bush league and a pro league is that the two are not, in fact, part of the same league.
And here’s a fairly scathing quote from a Massachusetts Superior Court:
“However, within my discretion, I find that a litigant’s right to access to the appellate courts is so important and so sacred that the blatant and transparently bush league contumacious conduct of Bruce D. Amster in attempting to avoid a creditor’s judgment doesn’t qualify for cutting off his appellate rights even though his conduct is flagrant[.]” John P. Kendall v. Hyannis Restorations International Sales, Inc., et al., Superior Court of Massachusetts
My new goal for the day: find an excuse to use the phrase “transparently bush league contumacious conduct”.
And here are some final quotes, attesting to the judicial popularity of describing kindergarten party antics as bush league moves:
“Absent that, the cataloguing of every instance of intense disagreement between the parties over the life of an investigation and trial, be it claimed Brady violations or bush league recess interrogation of the courtroom gallery, contorts the Hyde Amendment into a vehicle for Monday morning quarterbacking Congress simply did not intend.” United States v. Ali, 06-CR-200 (ENV), 2008 WL 4773422 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 27, 2008)
“In comparison to some of the more notorious cybersquatters, Rayne’s registration of roughly thirty domain names might seem bush-league. See H.R. Rep. 106–412, at 13 (noting that certain cyberpirates have been known to warehouse hundreds, even thousands, of domain names).” Savin Corp. v. Rayne, 00-CV-11728 PBS, 2001 WL 34815751 (D. Mass. Mar. 26, 2001)
“Legal academia may have unwittingly contributed to the common failure of counsel to brief thoroughly state constitutional issues by sometimes viewing them as the bush league of constitutional law.” Davenport v. Garcia, 834 S.W.2d 4, 21 (Tex. 1992)
And saving the best for last, we have what must surely be the absolute worst pun that has ever graced a federal court’s opinion, courtesy of the district court for the Southern District of New York:
“Of the magazines cited by defendants as undermining the PLAYBOY mark, PLAYBIRDS has no significance. PLAYBIRDS is a sex-oriented magazine but its style and content is bush league compared to PLAYBOY. It consists essentially of a series of pictures of unclad women with their legs open, exhibiting with dull redundancy the organ that PLAYBOY strives to make mysterious and interesting through suggestive display.” Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Chuckleberry Pub., Inc., 486 F. Supp. 414, 422 (S.D.N.Y. 1980)