The Case For One More Edit

With eyes burning and bloodshot, the lawyer stares at the current draft on the computer screen and thinks to herself: “I have seen this dang motion so many times, I could photographically reproduce it in my brain with my eyes closed!” Eschewing one more pass over the document to catch simple errors such as typos and mis-spellings, the lawyer hits the “send” key, heaving a sigh of relief.

What is the downside of premature arrest of the editing process? One possible outcome – having your attorneys’ fees slashed from $180,000 to $26,000 – is the lesson Brian Puricelli learned the hard way. Law.com’s Legal Intelligencer reported today on the fate of Mr. Puricelli’s petition for attorneys’ fees following his securing of a $150,000 verdict for his client in a civil rights case entitled McKenna v. City of Philadelphia. The plentitude of errors was not lost on Senior U.S. District Court Judge J. William Ditter, Jr., who detailed in the opinion each mis-step followed by a [sic]. While many of the errors were of the typographical and spelling variety, Puricelli also mis-identified the parties and amounts, misquoted a federal statute, mis-identified court rules and referred to the dissenting opinion in a U.S. Supreme Court case as a concurring opinion. Puricelli did make an attempt to rectify by filing an amended Petition three days following his apparent first draft, but the edited version still contained errors. Ditter accordingly slashed Puricelli’s fee request to 25% of the requested amount.

This was not Mr. Puricelli’s first experience of being chastised for poor writing. According to the article, In 2004, his fee request in the case of Devore v. City of Philadelphia was substantially cut due to his poor written product.  Conceding that his court room work was “smooth” and “artful,” Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart complained that Puricelli’s “complete lack of care [in his written work] shows disrespect for the court…”

Puricelli admits that he relies too heavily on spell-checking software and does not proofread enough. If there is a case for one more edit, this one surely is it.

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