Must be the day for religion in the news. First, there was breaking news about the consummate and consummating ‘Cafeteria Catholic‘ Gabino Zavala, the 60-year old L.A.-area bishop and father of two who made news for skipping the celibacy entrée on the doctrinal menu. Zavala is a high profile auxiliary bishop who was said to be very popular among the flock. He worked for Los Angeles Archdiocese Archbishop Jose Gomez.
In a letter announcing Bishop Zavala’s resignation, Archbishop Gomez wrote, “He is the father of two minor teenage children, who live with their mother in another state. Let us pray for all those impacted by this situation and for each other.”
But along with all those prayers, I say we also light a dozen votive candles of thanks that unlike the ongoing plague of Catholic Church scandals, Bishop Zavala didn’t borrow a page from Coach Sandusky‘s playbook.
‘What were they thinking?’
The other coincidental religious news involved two ‘what were they thinking?’ Minnesota lawyers sanctioned by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy C. Dreher for “beyond the pale” anti-Catholic rants in their motion to vacate.
Here’s an obvious but important practice tip, it’s neither prudent nor polite to call the judge a “black-robed bigot” and “a Catholic Knight Witch Hunter.” Justifiably, Judge Dreher took strong exception.
Lawyer Rebekah Nett and her client, lawyer Naomi Isaacson who besides referring to “Nancy Dreher, the Catholic judge,” also added for good measure that, “Across the country the court systems and particularly the Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota are composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church.”
A staid place.
Bankruptcy court is usually pretty sober, staid and unexciting. The last time I remember anything of particular note was U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Nevada Judge Bruce Markell’s opinion imposing a serious fine on a lawyer for being “sequaciously servile.”
Now, I’m not embarrassed to admit having hastened to my “Webster’s New American Dictionary” to look up sequacious. If nothing else, it was a cautionary exercise, reinforcing the unrewarding consequences of acting the part of a wanna-be George Will vocabulist show-off.
Turns out Judge Markell’s $100 dollar word choice was redundant. In addition to meaning subservient, the archaic word, “sequacious,” also means “intellectually servile.” So I guess “sequacious” would have been good enough without the superfluous “servile.”
In his February 4, 2010 “Memorandum Imposing Sanctions,” Judge Merrell objected to “butler-style” legal representation. He cited another case to underscore his imposition of a whopping $109,528 in restitutionary sanctions on the offending counsel. He wrote, “To act on such frivolous claims, then, without independent investigation, was to succumb to the so-called “butler-style” of representation, under which the sequaciously servile lawyer does whatever the client wants and then cites that client’s command as a shield to the improper actions. This style of lawyering, however, has no place in bankruptcy court or, for that matter, in any court.”
Thankfully, the insults in the long-running Minnesota Bankruptcy required no dictionary references. They did, however, elicit head-scratching incredulity.
But Judge Nancy Dreher’s sanction on Rebekah Nett’s and Naomi Isaacson’s “unsupported and outrageous allegations of bigotry, deceit, conspiracy and scandalous statements against this court” pales by comparison to Judge Markell’s monetary mallet. Judge Dreher ordered a measly $5,000 each in penalties and required Nett to attend, at her own expense, no less than 30 hours of ethics training within the next twelve months. There was also an unsurprising referral for an attorney discipline determination. See Judge Dreher’s Order to Show Cause.
And not that it much mattered alongside all the hateful vituperation, Judge Dreher said she has never been Catholic and is “not of any particular faith.” However, she did have an Arrest Warrant Issued. Also see “Judge orders Minnesota attorney arrested for anti-Catholic slurs.” A “Catholic advocacy group also filed complaints against Rebekah Nett.”
And smacking of the “sequacious” legal representation decried by Judge Markell, one press report said Rebekah Nett told Judge Dreher she felt “caught in the crosshairs” between ethics requirements and her client’s demands for certain language in the pleadings.”