When the Ed Schultz trial concludes, Judge Beryl Howell may want to attend a few anger management classes. Seriously, her cortisol levels must be through the roof.
Howell has been trying her damndest to put on a believable nice front for the jury all week long. She smiles. She asks them how they are. She apologizes for keeping them waiting. And then, as soon as they go on break and it’s just she and the lawyers, Howell explodes in a fireball of anger.
Harkening back to the pre-trial hearing when Howell told the male attorneys, “I need to let you hang yourselves,” she attempted to do just that on Thursday, Day 4 of the trial.
Schultz is being sued by NBC producer and sound engineer Michael Queen for breach of partnership. Queen says Schultz owes him for 14 months of grueling work to land him “The Ed Show” on MSNBC. After exchanges of some 1,100 emails and promises of partnership, Schultz claims they had no partnership at all.
Midway through the afternoon, moody Howell instructed the jurors to step out of the courtroom so the lawyers could take care of business. It took her mere seconds to snap.
Queen’s attorney, Catfish Abbott, the country lawyer straight out of central casting, wanted to submit 226 pages of emails from his client to Ed Schultz into the record. He wants them in there to solidly establish that the pair had an ongoing relationship for 14 months. He also wants to present his client’s state of mind.
Mind you, Schultz’s attorneys didn’t submit a single email from “Mr. Schultz” (as he’s called in the courtroom) because he took a page out of Hillary Clinton‘s playbook and erased them all. He cited getting hacked and the fact that he’s Ed Schultz for not having any. A big host with crappy ratings can’t have a thousand emails clogging his inbox now can he?
Howell was not pleased with Abbott’s request (and that’s putting it mildly). “Are you asking me right now to sit with you and Mr. Hayes to go through your proposed exhibit email by email?” she asked (level 8.5 on Beryl’s anger Richter scale.). “You’re asking me to grant your motion to accept your emails?”
She and the lawyers went back and forth. Schultz’s lawyer, John Hayes, in his pinstripe gray suit and hipster glasses, vehemently argued against the submission, while Abbott calmly fought to get it in.
Soon Howell had to actually leave the courtroom to compose herself. She was metaphorically foaming at the mouth, but give her time for the real thing – the trial isn’t quite over yet.
When she returned, she announced that she’d gone to her chambers to chill out.
“I had my opportunity to count to 100 in my chambers after being presented with 300 emails at virtually the end of this case,” she said.
Apparently counting to 100 doesn’t really work.
Howell banged her hand on the table. “Contrary to your opinion, they [the emails] are not just from the plaintiff to the defendant. “They are NOT,” she said. “They are NOT.”
In the end, she accepted Abbott’s 226-page submission.
But you didn’t think she was going to let him off that easy, did you?
“It’s a mess, this exhibit,” she said, punching each word with bile. Eyeing Schultz’s attorney conspiratorially, she continued, “One could say it will make the plaintiff look like a mess to this jury.”
She wasn’t done.
“Mr. Abbott, I don’t know how you tried cases back in Jacksonville, but we’re more buttoned up here in D.C. This document dump, you do this at your own peril in front of the jury.”
Except one could also argue that putting Schultz’s longtime lawyer Jeffrey Landa on the stand at the end of a long day was the equivalent of a document dump – listening to the soft-spoken, boring, elfin man testify is an unnecessary torture to inflict on a reporter. He places his mouth inches from the microphone, just enough so you can’t hear him, but enough so you slightly can, but have no idea what he’s saying.
He was reprimanded a few times for speaking too softly.
Just then, a brief drama arose. Hayes told the judge that one of the plaintiff’s pivotal emails is not in the record.
“How about in [exhibit] 1E?” Judge Howell asked, flipping slowly through the 226-page document as if it’s the most ridiculous packet of papers she’s ever held in her hands.
Sure enough – hilariously – it’s in there.