Beyond Sloppiness to Gibberish

Sort of pressed for time these days. (Another manuscript deadline approaching.) But I do want to take a moment to add this to the “Consequences of Sloppiness” file, although as the title to  the post suggests, it goes beyond sloppiness by at least 300 words. From ABAJournal.com:

A federal appeals court is so aggravated by the quality of an Illinois lawyer’s legal writing that it has ordered him to show cause why he shouldn’t be barred from practicing before the court.

Lawyer Walter Maksym was “unable to file an intelligible complaint,” despite three tries given him by the trial court, according to the opinion (PDF) by the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Each iteration of the complaint was generally incomprehensible and riddled with errors, making it impossible for the defendants to know what wrongs they were accused of committing,” the appeals court said. In addition, “Maksym’s appellate briefing is woefully deficient, raising serious concerns about his competence to practice before this court,” the court added.

he district court was well within its discretion when it refused to accept Maksym’s second amended complaint, the appeals court said. “Though the complaint was far longer than it needed to be, prolixity was not its chief deficiency,” according to the appeals court. “Rather, its rampant grammatical, syntactical, and typographical errors contributed to an overall sense of unintelligibility. This was compounded by a vague, confusing, and conclusory articulation of the factual and legal basis for the claims and a general ‘kitchen sink’ approach to pleading the case.”

The appeals court included a 345-word sentence by Maksym to illustrate. At least 23 sentences contained 100 or more words. “Much of the writing is little more than gibberish,” the appeals court said. “Given three attempts to file a proper complaint, Maksym could not even bring himself to correct the errors cataloged by the district court following the first two rejections.”

Most of the posts regarding sloppiness here deal with exactly that.  It is highly unlikely that this kind of writing could have emanated from or gotten by a professional paralegal. So the more interesting question, it seems to me, is what a paralegal should do when the attorney is about to file documents like this? How would you handle it? I have some thoughts of my own, but they will have to wait until I have a bit more time.

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