Courtroom Malapropism

Time for a little legal humor – I’ve told this one before but it bears repeating (not using real names out of consideration for others).

The courtroom was packed with lawyers as the JUDGE slowly moved through a long criminal case calendar list. The courtroom CLERK dutifully pulled out paper files as each case was called. Just before the morning break a name was called whose file was not in the pile brought in by the Clerk’s office. The JUDGE asked the CLERK to get the file during the break and court was recessed.

During the recess the CLERK had a little difficulty but found the file. He returned to the courtroom but became engaged in conversation with a couple of lawyers stranding in the back. The JUDGE took the bench but since so many people were in the room the hushed conversation in the back went on, unnoticed. After things settled down the JUDGE noticed that the CLERK was not at his appointed location in front of the bench. This exchanged followed:

JUDGE: We will resume the calendar … Mr. Clerk, do you have that file?

CLERK: (still whispering with lawyers – no reply)

JUDGE: Mr. Clerk, do you have the (name omitted) file?

CLERK: (still whispering with lawyers – no reply)

JUDGE: Mr. Clerk, can you bring up that file I sent you for?

CLERK: (still whispering with lawyers – no reply)

JUDGE: (turning to a courtroom security officer): Please get Mr. Clerk!

So the security officer goes back and gets the Clerk’s attention. They both come to the front of the courtroom and the Clerk takes his seat at a table in front of the bench. Everyone is the courtroom is watching but the Clerk simply starts arranging files. So the Judge, smilingly, begins again:

JUDGE: Mr. Clerk, do you have that file we asked you to get over the break?

CLERK: Yes, your honor, here it is (standing, turning, handing the file to the Judge)

JUDGE: Thank you. Didn’t you hear me asking for it?

CLERK: I’m sorry?

JUDGE: I’ve been asking you if you had the file several times – didn’t you hear me?

CLERK: You were asking me?

JUDGE: Yes I was – what’s the matter are you getting deaf or something?

CLERK: No, your honor … it must be the poor AGNOSTICS in this room….!

The comedian Norman Crosby used to say that he learned the art of malapropisms while “communicating” to work and watching the colorful “foilage” and the movie “My Cousin Vinny” had some of that same type “verbage”, but real-life examples abound everywhere. Cheers!

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