Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lawyer Who Told Judge "You're a Few French Fries Short of a Happy Meal" Escapes Suspension from Practice Before Judge

William P. Smith, the Chicago-based McDermott Will & Emery partner who told a Miami bankruptcy judge in open court "[Y]ou're a few french fries short of a Happy Meal" (transcript here) was ordered yesterday by the judge to take an online professionalism course from the Flordia bar (even though he is is not a member of the Florida Bar and was practicing in Miami as a visiting lawyer).  Smith and the firm's chairman apologized to the judge yesterday, and his lawyer reported that Smith has (1) already taken the course, (2) stepped down as chair of the firm's bankruptcy practice, (3) made a donation to the University of Miami's Center for Ethics and Public Service, and (4) and agreed to perform 200 hours of pro bono work in Chicago.  The judge declined to suspend him from practicing in her court

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» Nifong (appropriately) disbarred; contrite Smith gets off (appropriately) easily from BeldarBlog
June 2007 might be remembered (but probably won't be) as a good month for symbolically and substantively appropriate results in my profession's occasionally effective ability to police itself. ******* On the one hand, we have the very appropriate disba... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 22, 2007 5:27:09 AM


If i had disagreed with the judge; would have disagreed respectfully and would have submitted arguments that could be a basis for appeal. More disagreeable is a judge you will discover that more subjective she is and more likely that her observation would not be sustained. It is always difficult to cope up with the taciturn observations....

Posted by: karma | Sep 10, 2007 5:31:00 PM

thats true that the judge quoted about the discourse inthe legal community...


Posted by: suma vallurus | Jul 5, 2007 4:52:16 AM

so, what SHOULD a lawyer say when he truly believes what the judge is doing is absolutely incorrect? is there a "proper" way to tell a judge she is an idiot?

not to say this lawyer wasn't an idiot himself, but what would you have done in his position?

Posted by: independent thinker | Jun 23, 2007 1:05:59 PM

Good lawyers carry words; bad lawyers are carried by words.

Posted by: Karamvir Dahiya | Jun 22, 2007 7:01:51 AM

Judge Isicoff was quoted this week as saying "she hoped the widely reported incident would start a discourse in the legal community about the appropriate way for lawyers to address judges, clients and each other," so I commend you, Prof. Caron, for your update.

My own take as a practicing courtroom lawyer, which appears at much greater length on my own blog (linked here), is that Smith and MW&E are to be commended for taking responsibility, fessing up, not fighting, and instead practicing effective damage control and crisis management. You're correct that Smith's pro hac vice admission wasn't withdrawn, nor any other sanction imposed, and I think that's entirely appropriate, given his and his firm's degree of contrition. But anyone from within or without the profession who thinks that Smith's remarks had less than multi-million dollar consequences in the real world doesn't understand what's been going on.

Posted by: Beldar | Jun 22, 2007 5:24:58 AM