US judge opens written ruling with a not-so-funny cartoon in possible bench first

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By Judge John Hack on

Michigan courtroom is the scene of not quite unrivalled hilarity as Federal Court judge invokes bizarre drawing in insurance litigation trial


A top judge in Michigan has ticked several boxes in the game we love so much on this side of the Atlantic — “It Could Only Happen in the US Legal system”.

First, the Federal Court judge involved has something of a comedy name, which, obviously, is not his fault, but is a fact nonetheless.

Then Judge Robert Jonker (which is only a tiny sub-editing mistake away from Judge Joker) decided several days ago to hand down a written judgment that kicks off with a cartoon.

Legal Cheek’s US cousin, blog site Above the Law, reported on what was an otherwise dull interim order in a case involving an insurance company and a large manufacturer of electronic goods.

The tedium was partially broken by the order opening with a colour drawing of a man standing on a bed peering over a brick wall, quipping — presumably to his wife/lover — “Well, was it something I said?”


As AtL points out, it’s hardly a sidesplitting, call-for-an-ambulance quality joke — but then this is a Federal Court in the Western District of Michigan Southern Division, which, those with an anally retentive knowledge of US court geography will know, is situated in Grand Rapids.

Judge Jo(n)ker was having a pop at Michael “Mike” Ginsberg, an insurance litigation specialist partner in the Pittsburg office of US mega-firm Jones Day.

The judge was cross that Ginsberg had filed a motion in New Jersey Superior Court pertaining to the Michigan proceedings. And what really got up Judge Jonker’s nose was that Ginsberg had only that day appeared in the Grand Rapids courtroom and failed to mention the New Jersey filing.

Easy to see how that sort of behaviour could drive the bench to drastic cartoon measures. We look forward to English High Court judges invoking Viz classics such as Buster Gonad and Fat Slags.


Jones Day