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You Don't Ever Just Drop the F-Bomb in Court

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By George Khoury, Esq. on September 27, 2018 1:13 PM

One lawyer in Connecticut is learning a harsh lesson as a result of not learning that same lesson from Frank Drebin back in 1988.

While wearing a lapel mic, the lawyer, commenting to their client, presumably privately, dropped the f-bomb twice: "F--- him," she said. Which was then followed by the following comment: "I am going to give him such a f---ing hard time." As the court noted, whether the attorney was referring to the judge or opposing counsel was ambiguous and pretty much irrelevant. Unfortunately for the lawyer, her lapel mic blunder earned her a short suspension from the practice of law and sanctions.

Material Profanity

The lawyer in question wasn't so much sanctioned for using the expletive laden language as much as the tenor behind it. As the court expressed: "When wicked words betoken wicked deeds they are a matter for action."

The court understood the expressions to mean that the attorney would continue to "willfully disrupt a proceeding in court." This understanding, coupled with the use of profanity in court, in the court's eye, made the conduct sanctionable. The court also seemed to be persuaded by the fact that over the last 20 years, the attorney had been sanctioned six other times for similar conduct.

Lawyerly Language

For many lawyers, profanity is no big deal. It's not uncommon for expletives to get used around the office, when computers don't cooperate, or even with certain clients. Heck, sometimes you can even swear in your pleadings.

However, there is no question that casually using profanity in court is a bad idea. Think about it, in this case, what made this lawyer's conduct objectionable was the unprofessional choice of words. Had she professionally expressed what she meant, rather than using the R-rated slang, it's unlikely her words would have been construed as nefarious. For example, had she said: "Don't worry about him. I am going to litigate the matter so diligently he will offer us a favorable settlement." There's no way she would have been sanctioned.

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