Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Importance of Avoiding Typos

A hilarious story:
Judge Slashes Lawyer's Rate for Typos, Careless Writing

Finding that attorney Brian Puricelli's courtroom work was 'smooth' and 'artful' in securing a $430,000 verdict in a civil rights suit, but that his written work was 'careless' and laden with typographical errors, a federal magistrate judge has ruled that his court-awarded fees should be paid at two rates -- $300 per hour for the courtroom work, but $150 per hour for work on the pleadings.

'Mr. Puricelli's complete lack of care in his written product shows disrespect for the court. His errors, not just typographical, caused the court a considerable amount of work. Hence, a substantial reduction is in order. We believe that $150 per hour is, in fact, generous,' U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart wrote in his 12-page fee opinion in Devore v. City of Philadelphia.

In the suit, plaintiff John Devore, a former Philadelphia police officer, claimed that he was harassed and ultimately fired in retaliation for reporting that his partner had stolen a cell phone.

Hart said he recognized that the case was a complicated one, but said he found some of Puricelli's writing in the amended complaint to be 'nearly unintelligible.'

When defense lawyers complained that the typographical errors in Puricelli's work were 'epidemic,' Puricelli's response included several more typos, Hart said. The judge quoted a paragraph from Puricelli's response, adding '[sic]' after each typo.

Puricelli wrote: 'As for there being typos, yes there have been typos, but these errors have not detracted from the arguments or results, and the rule in this case was a victory for Mr. Devore. Further, had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff's counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones."

Hart seemed almost amused.

"If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant," Hart wrote. "However, based on the history of the case and Mr. Puricelli's filings, we know otherwise."

In his most recent letter to the court, Hart noted, Puricelli misspelled the judge's name, referring to him as the "Honorable Jacon [sic] Hart."

"I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in The Lord of the Rings," Hart wrote, "but alas, I am but a judge."


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