A federal judge has levied sanctions of more than $29,000 on a lawyer and his client after finding that a deposition was a “spectacular failure” because of the client’s constant use of vulgar language and insults and dodging or refusing to answer questions, and his lawyer’s failure to rein him in.
In his 44-page opinion in GMAC Bank v. HTFC Corp., U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno found that Aaron Wider, the CEO of HTFC, engaged in “hostile, uncivil, and vulgar conduct, which persisted throughout the nearly 12 hours of deposition testimony.”
Robreno noted that Wider used the “F word” or variations of it 73 times during the deposition and that the video shows that his lawyer, Joseph R. Ziccardi of Chicago, at one point “snickered” at his client’s conduct.
Ziccardi was also to blame, Robreno found, because he failed to stop his client’s tirades and persuade him to answer questions.
“The nature of Wider’s misconduct was so severe and pervasive, and his violations of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure so frequent and blatant, that any reasonable attorney representing Wider would have intervened in an effort to curb Wider’s misconduct,” Robreno wrote.
“Ziccardi’s failure to address, then and there, Wider’s misconduct could have no other effect but to empower Wider to persist in his behavior. Under these circumstances, the court equates Ziccardi’s silence with endorsement and ratification of Wider’s misconduct,” Robreno wrote.
As a result, Robreno concluded that both Wider and Ziccardi should be sanctioned under Rule 30 and Rule 37, and that Wider must appear for a new deposition which will be taken under the supervision of a federal magistrate judge.
As Christopher Fairman has noted, that word has a lot of power. But wouldn’t it have been just as bad from a practical standpoint if the client refused to answer questions and engaged in cuss-word-free tirades?