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Objection! Interrupting lawyer gets sanction

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POSTED August 6, 2014 7:06 p.m.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge in Iowa meted out an unusual punishment to a lawyer for repeatedly raising objections and interrupting depositions: She must produce a training video showing why such tactics are inappropriate.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, her law firm objected to the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett issued the “outside-the-box sanction” last week to Chicago-based attorney June Ghezzi, a partner at the international law firm Jones Day.

Bennett wrote that during pretrial depositions in a lawsuit in which Ghezzi was defending Abbott Laboratories, she “proliferated hundreds of unnecessary objections and interruptions” that appeared to coach witnesses on how to answer questions and delayed the proceedings.

Bennett said that rather than issuing a monetary fine against Ghezzi, he wanted to take a stand against “obstructive deposition practices” that are common and that some litigators are even taught to use.

With that goal in mind, Bennett ordered Ghezzi to write and produce a training video that “provides specific steps lawyers must take to comply” with the rationale of his opinion. He said the video must address the impropriety of lawyers vaguely objecting to the form of questions, coaching witnesses and excessively interrupting. Bennett said the video could point out those jurisdictions that specifically allow “form objections.”

He said Jones Day would have to make the video available to all of its lawyers who appear in U.S. state or federal courts or who work in practices where other lawyers do. Bennett said his order must be complied with within 90 days, but that he would suspend it if it is appealed.

Jones Day attorney Dan Reidy said in a statement Tuesday that the firm plans to appeal. He said Ghezzi’s conduct “was appropriate and violated no rule of law or of the court,” and he noted that the plaintiffs’ lawyer didn’t complain at the time.

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