An attorney observing the virtual oral argument of the appeal of a case he had tried in the lower court was apparently not happy with the opposing side’s argument and made a certain gesture, considered rude in many circles, to his computer’s camera. When confronted with this behavior by the panel during the oral argument, the attorney said he was merely pointing at his broken computer. And that excuse did NOT fly with the judges. The story on Above the Law indicates that the Court fined the attorney $3,000. The attorney is sticking with his story that he was flipping off the computer, which he says was not displaying the video feed of the argument. Which begs the question, “Is there such a thing as transferred intent for ‘flipping the bird’?”
I have heard tell of more than one attorney who let an “f-bomb” slip out during questioning or a jury closing, and the judges in those case were sympathetic — though not so much as to forego a fine. In one case, the attorney immediately realized his error and turned, pinked-faced, to the judge saying “I’m sorry your Honor, it just slipped out.” “I understand, Counsel,” replied the judge, “but I hope you brought your check book.” If I recall correctly, the jury found for the attorney’s client, who happily include the amount of the sanction in paying the lawyer’s fee.