Do as I say not as I do.
This was the unspoken adage in Judge Beryl Howell‘s courtroom last week as MSNBC’s Ed Schultz survived Day 5 of his trial.
Michael Queen, a longtime NBC sound engineer, is suing him for breach of partnership. He claims he helped Ed get his TV show. Despite 14 months of throwing around thousands of emails that included the word “partner,” Ed says he never signed anything.
Monday is final summations. Then the jury will deliberate.
As we’ve been reporting for the past week, Howell, an Obama appointee and donor, plays favorites. She appears to despise the plaintiff’s attorneys and adore Schultz’s lawyers. Well, adore may be overstating things. The Bryn Mawr graduate appears to hate all men involved in the case, but her wrath is transfixed on one lawyer: the plaintiff’s Catfish Abbott.
One reason for her fury is that she heard the case before and ruled in favor of Schultz. She wasn’t counting on the plaintiff appealing — and winning. The D.C. Circuit Court sent the case back to her courtroom for a jury trial. Judges don’t like their decisions being overturned — this case being no exception.
Howell doesn’t regularly speak to Schultz’s attorney John Hayes with the sickening contempt she does Abbott, who speaks with a southern twang and apologizes every time Beryl sneers at him about something – which is often.
“My bad,” he says, employing his regular catch phrase. Or, “I apologize your honor.”
It’s cringeworthy. Catfish has endured her verbal abuse all week long. Other courtroom observers have also noticed her ghastly treatment of Catfish. One trial watcher told The Mirror he thinks her behavior may taint the jury’s ability to be fair, especially the impressionable younger jurors who may be influenced by her obvious hatred for the lawyer.
During cross examination of Schultz on Friday, Catfish discussed various emails between his client and Schultz.
In one, Schultz told Queen the network was their only hope, knocking down the defense’s continuous argument that Schultz and Queen were only working on getting Schultz a syndicated program.
When Catfish suggested Queen and Schultz were working together, Schultz snapped, “Exactly, we were working on the same project.” Catfish replied, “Great, glad to hear it.”
Hang on. Time for a Howell scolding. “Mr. Abbott,” she said annunciating every syllable in her nastiest tone. “You may ask a question, but snide comments are beneath you.”
Catfish asked about their partnership — since it’s the case and all.
Schultz’s attorney objected.
Howell overruled the objection, but not without interjecting her snide two cents: “By my count, this is the third or fourth time, so how about one more time?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
Finally on Friday, Catfish briefly pulled the thorn that is Howell out of his side. He is all about the gentle, subtle gesture.
Schultz repeatedly interrupted the lawyer and didn’t answer yes and no questions as he was asked. He also elaborated as much as he pleased. The judge had previously ordered Catfish to ask her to admonish the witness and not him.
He asked Beryl, “Would you instruct the witness to wait for me to ask a question?”
Beryl shot him down: “I’m not going to instruct the witness. That’s the risk you take when using a chart.”
Schultz piped up, “Can I explain?”
Catfish glanced at the judge and smiled.
He replied, “I think you could probably do anything you want to do.”