The histrionics we see on television are almost never allowed in a real courtroom. If something truly appalling is going to happen, it’s going to happen outside of the courtroom. Prime example: toxic e-mail feuds.

Sooner or later we all run into opposing counsel who try to provoke us into some kind of angry e-mail exchange. My policy: do NOT engage.

These sorts of soul crushing e-mail feuds do nothing to help the clients, move the focus of the case away from the substance of the matter (where it should be) to the lawyers (where it shouldn’t be), and are ultimately demeaning as well as psychologically damaging for all concerned.

Case in point: The e-mail feud between two Florida litigators that resulted in sanctions for both sides. The insults they exchanged were summarized by the ABA Journal:

  • From Mooney to Mitchell, written after an accusation that he couldn’t handle the pressures of litigation: Mooney said he was handling more than 200 cases, “many of which were more important/significant than these little Mag[nuson] Moss [warranty] claims that are handled by bottom feeding/scum sucking/loser lawyers like yourself.”
  • From Mitchell: Mooney displays symptoms of a disability marked by “closely spaced eyes, dull blank stare, bulbous head, lying.”
  • From Mooney: Mitchell should look in the mirror to see signs of a disability. “Then check your children (if they are even yours. … Better check the garbage man that comes by your trailer to make sure they don’t look like him).”
  • From Mitchell, after learning Mooney’s son suffers from a birth defect: “While I am sorry to hear about your disabled child, that sort of thing is to be expected when a retard reproduces.”

If you’re dealing with opposing counsel that just doesn’t get it, you may want to send him or her a copy of the Florida Bar Complaints filed against the lawyers in this case [click here, here], and note that toxic e-mails can actually get them sanctioned, as noted in the concluding paragraph of both Florida Bar Complaints:

By reason of the foregoing, the Respondent has violated the following Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: Rule 3-4.3 (commission of any act that is unlawful or contrary to honesty and justice); and Rule 4-8.4(d) (a lawyer shall not engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic).