This judge is a real laugh

Associated Press

GALVESTON, Texas – Woe to any attorney who suggests that Galveston is just too far to travel to appear before U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent.

He’s likely to suggest they find any mode of transportation available, whether it be “plane, train, automobile, horseback, foot, or on the back of a huge Texas jackrabbit.”

In his 11 years on the bench, Kent has built a reputation for turning to humor, whether it be to instruct lawyers, cut tension during a trial or reassure jurors they’re doing a good job.

Kent, 52, said he views humor as a gentler, more effective way of conveying his message.

“This is life. It’s very brief,” Kent said. “It’s really important to humanize this experience if you are going to touch people in a real way.”

Still, Kent, who handles both civil and criminal cases as Galveston’s only federal judge, doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as the jurist who issues wacky rulings. Of his thousands of opinions and orders, he says, most are “dry as toast.”

Some excerpts from a few of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent’s more popular rulings:

  • When East Coast attorneys asked him to move a case from his court because the Texas Gulf Coast city lacks a commercial airport, he denied the request, reminding them the 50-mile highway from Houston “is paved and lighted” and “the trip should be free of rustlers, hooligans and vicious varmints.”

    In the same order, Kent assured the lawyers his courtroom “has got lights, indoor plummin’, ‘lectric doors, and all sorts of new stuff, almost like them big courthouses back East.”

  • In granting a request that a lawsuit be dismissed, Kent suggested the work of the lawyers on both sides was amateurish and that they had written their filings in crayon.

    “Despite the continued shortcomings of Plaintiff’s supplemental submission, the Court commends Plaintiff for his vastly improved choice of crayon – Brick Red is much easier on the eyes than Goldenrod, and stands out much better amid the mustard splotched about Plaintiff’s briefing. But at the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig.”

  • The Bolivian government filed a lawsuit in Brazoria County against tobacco companies to recover the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses in Bolivia. Kent decided a Washington, D.C., court was more appropriate.

    “The Court is virtually certain that Bolivia is not within the four counties over which this Court presides, even though the words Bolivia and Brazoria are a lot alike and caused some real, initial confusion until the Court conferred with its law clerks.”

    “The Court seriously doubts whether Brazoria County has ever seen a live Bolivian … even on the Discovery Channel.”

    Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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