An attorney was escorted out of federal court on Wednesday after sarcastically mixing it up with a judge who eventually had enough of the lawyer’s fresh mouth.
The verbal contretemps unfolded in the typically placid Second Circuit Court of Appeals between Judge Denny Chin and attorney Todd Bank.
Bank was appearing before a three-judge panel to argue about a local rule in the Eastern District of New York that requires a sponsorship affidavit for certain attorneys.
Bank told the panel he didn’t have anything to add beyond what he had already filed in his briefs, that he didn’t want to be duplicative, and asked the court if they had any questions.
The controversy began after Chin pressed Bank as to why, exactly, he was in court.
“I don’t understand why the appeal was brought,” Chin said. “I mean your client controls whatever affidavit he submits to get admitted and if it’s not an affidavit he likes, he doesn’t have to submit it. So, I don’t understand why you’re here.”
“Well, it’s not a question of whether he likes an affidavit,” Bank began.
Chin cut him off to elaborate: “His due process concern is that because he has to submit an affidavit—if the affidavit is negative then that somehow hurts him but he controls who he gets an affidavit from—and he controls whether to submit it and if he doesn’t like an affidavit he can go get another one, right?”
”His fear of a negative affidavit, with all due respect, judge, has nothing to do with this case,” an increasingly annoyed Bank says in response. “I’m rather perplexed.”
“That’s the explanation on what the perceived injury is,” Chin confidently asserts.
“No, that’s not it at all,” Bank says.
”Well, what is the injury?” Chin inquires.
Then things escalated quickly downhill.
“Are you serious judge? With all due respect, I don’t know what to say,” Bank said.
Chin responded: “You know what, I withdraw my question. You can sit down.”
“Okay, well, thank you,” Bank sardonically replied. “Thank you very much judge. I see that you read the briefs thoroughly.”
Chin responded somewhat incredulously:
Listen, you know, you are acting inappropriately—you are acting inappropriately. [off-mic voices] Well, well, you are acting in a disrespectful and discourteous manner, and that’s not appropriate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Modafferi was then recognized but quickly and simply rested the government’s case—relying on the briefs filed; similar to Bank’s attempt.
But Banks said he wanted to claim some rebuttal time. The court was not interested.
“You’ve waived rebuttal!” Chin shouted.
Bank accurately noted that he had done no such thing. He was then asked to leave twice before eventually leaving—flanked by security.
Bank later said he had no regrets about the incident.
“Judge Chin’s point—it certainly indicates he didn’t know what the case was about,” Bank told Law.com. “Ninety percent of the case was what [my client] objected to, rightly or wrongly: The steps he would have to go through to even get the affidavit.”
The long-practicing attorney continued:
It’s certainly not something I was planning ahead of time. I think I was understandably very frustrated—when the opening comment from the bench clearly shows, at least from where I was standing, figuratively speaking, that at least one judge didn’t know what the case was about or didn’t care…I assume he didn’t know.
Listen to the full audio of the incident below:
[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]