The court as critic


By David Hejmanowski - Contributing columnist



“No one was listening, and I feared these matters would be thrown out like all others, without even considering the merits. Thus, I switched strategy, and filed a ‘screenplay.’”

— Ilya Liviz, attorney

“Plaintiff’s counsel is cautioned that if future filings in this case violate Rule 11, the court may impose an appropriate sanction on counsel to deter further repetition of the conduct.”

— Indira Talwani, U.S. District Judge

FADE IN:

INT. SMALL TOWN NEWSPAPER. A Friday in December — Day. The newspaper is folded, an editorial cartoon across its top half. The newsprint is crisp and stark against the white paper. A medium largely unchanged across the centuries. The pages crinkle enticingly, as if Christmas wrapping paper, beneath which hides the gift of knowledge and truth.

The newspaper’s loyal reader opens the Friday paper to discover that the weekly column written by a local jurist is, inexplicably, in the format of a movie screenplay. The reader pauses, momentarily puzzled by this strange development, head tilting slightly to the side as if mimicking the confusion of a startled animal. The reader knows that the columnist has written before in rhyming verse, in song lyrics, even in an acrostic. But why? Why, would the judge take to writing in the form of a movie screenplay?

CUT TO:

EXT. LYNN, MASSACHUSETTS. April 18, 2016. The sun shines upon grandmotherly Lyudmila S. Maslyakova as she drives her car to the local store. Her husband sits in the passenger seat. From the window hangs a blue handicapped parking placard. The number on it is issued to him, not to her. She parks in a handicap spot. Grandpa exits the vehicle and walks slowly to the store. Once he is inside, Grandma Lyudmila places the car in gear to exit, but is blocked in by a police cruiser. She is issued a ticket for improperly using her husband’s handicapped placard.

FADE TO:

INT. MASSACHUSETTS COURTROOM. Grandma L. is unable to convince the court to go easy on her. She is fined $505. The appeals court is no help. She faces a suspension of her license and so hires an attorney — Ilya Liviz. Liviz is directing this film, and casts himself as the knight on a white steed. He will ride to Grandma’s rescue, appeal to the federal court, and get her heinous ticket overturned.

PAN UP TO:

ANGRY FEDERAL JUDGE. Mr. Liviz has been in this court before. He has on previous occasions asked this court to waive filing fees for his clients. But every time he has done so, he has failed to file the proper paperwork. The court has repeatedly admonished him, and told him the proper way to file. Still, once again, he has not filed the right cost waiver. To make matters worse, this time he has filed his appeal in the form of … an 18-page movie script??? The federal judge is not pleased. She didn’t graduate cum laude from Radcliffe, get her law degree from Berkeley, and get confirmed to the federal bench by a 94-0 vote to deal with litigators who can’t follow simple procedural rules.

CUT TO:

INT. LAW OFFICE. Liviz is opening his mail. One envelope indicates that it is from the federal district court. He pauses, examines the outside, then opens the mail carefully. It is an ordered from the judge. It denies his request to waive filing fees. It points out, again, that he has not filed the request correctly. It suggests that he is filing nuisance lawsuits. It threatens him with sanctions. But he is unfazed. He calls the press and during the interview invents a new legal doctrine, and humbly names it after himself.

FADE BACK TO:

SMALL TOWN NEWSPAPER. Our intrepid reader has made it to the end of the column. It is now clear why the piece is written in screenplay style. But it’s still not clear just what that Massachusetts lawyer was thinking. And his client is no better off. The moral of the story is clear — it’s never a good idea to anger a federal court judge with frivolous filings.

FADE TO BLACK. ROLL CREDITS.

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By David Hejmanowski

Contributing columnist

David Hejmanowski is judge of the Probate/Juvenile Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.

David Hejmanowski is judge of the Probate/Juvenile Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.