Flinging iced coffee at opposing counsel is not necessarily the most appropriate way of silencing their continued interjection and, for California lawyer Valeria Healy it resulted in a $250 sanction.
The sanction was compensation for coffee-staining opposing lawyer Thomas Wallerstein’s clothes after Ms Healy was twice told to “be quiet”.
The coffee break occurred when Healy told her witness she was going to call the court and they should “just go,” which lead to Wallerstein advising against it because the witness was under court order to appear.
“I think you should take five and think about it,” Wallerstein told the witness.
“No, I think you should take a f—— break!” Healy replied before flinging the coffee.
She then said she had actually slammed the coffee on the table causing a mere spillage, but her lawyer later accepted that Healy had failed to control the offending cup leading it to bouncing across the table.
The US magistrate said Healy had refused to accept responsibility for her “shocking behaviour” and had acted in bad faith.
“Had Healy kept her temper in check, this never would have happened,” the magistrate wrote. “Had she apologized for her behavior as soon as she uttered the curse words and lost control of the coffee, she might not be facing a sanctions motion. Healy’s actions were shocking and inappropriate, but her response in the wake of those actions is in many ways much worse.”
“As a national figure recently exhorted,” Ryu wrote in a footnote, “ ‘When they go low, we go high.’ Both counsel could benefit from taking such advice to heart.”