A Different Kind of Monkey Trial – How Not to Allege Judicial Bias

Monkeys and the law don’t seem to get along.  The famous 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” was the prosecution of a high school teacher who taught that mankind descended from apes.  An article linked here today by Howard Bashman at the How Appealing blog reports that a Delaware attorney was reprimanded by that state’s Supreme Court for writing in a lower court brief that, among other things, the county board whose decision he was disputing might as well have been composed of monkeys:

The briefs were part of an appeal to Superior Court disputing a decision by New Castle County Board of License, Inspection & Review, in which he made several statements including that the county could appoint “monkeys” to the board and “simply allow the attorney to interpret the grunts and groans of the ape members and reach whatever conclusion the attorney wished from the documents of record.”

The Delaware Supreme Court found that submission of the brief violated their rules of ethics.  Though it is not apparent from the excerpts provided in the article, the court found that the brief suggested that the reviewing court would rule against the party due to bias rather than the merits of the case.

Judicial bias is a legitimate ground for appeal after the fact.  And you can even be proactive about it in California trial courts.  Better to follow prescribed procedure, though (see Code Civ. P. § 170 et seq.), than resort to monkeyshines.

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