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March 20, 2015 Practice Points

Business Law Today: Lessons in Civility from Zenith v. Matsushita

A glimpse into the behind-the-scenes efforts of one federal judge and counsel to engender professional civility duringa contentious case.

By Irwin Warren and Jay Minga

Louis A. Lehr Jr. and John L. Ropiequet of Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Chicago recount the behind-the-scenes efforts of one federal judge and counsel to engender professional civility in the highly contentious litigation that led to the Supreme Court’s famous decision,Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). Lehr and Ropiequet cast several colorful vignettes. Among other stories, they recount the mysterious appearance of a referee’s outfit and whistle on Judge Becker’s bench (and his playful donning thereof), the ceremonial photographing of the literal “setting of the scheduling order in concrete”, with counsel attired in construction outfits, and the creation of the Bon Mot Trophy competition for courtroom “zingers” and the gratis transcript copies awarded to the winners in addition to the storied trophy. And every litigator should consider using Judge Becker’s form of pretrial order, including its “Time-Out” provisions for counsel to invoke when the pace of litigation is just too unbearable.


Irwin Warren, committee cochair, and Jay Minga Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, New York, NY

Copyright © 2015, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).