I can’t help but discuss this post at Lowering the Bar that is apparently not a joke (it’s also discussed at The Volokh Conspiracy). The story involves a response filed by a defense attorney in Tennessee to a motion from the prosecution in a criminal case:

[The defense response] was prompted by the prosecution’s one-page and citation-free motion in limine asking the court to order defendant’s counsel “not to refer to the Assistant District Attorney General as ‘the Government’ during trial.” The prosecution had come to believe, apparently, that this reference was being “used in a derogatory way” and wished to put a stop to that.

The defense attorney’s response (available here) is fantastic.

Should this Court disagree, and feel inclined to let the parties basically pick their own designations and ban words, then the defense has a few additional suggestions for amending the speech code. First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art, obviously has a fairly negative connotation. It unfairly demeans, and dehumanizes Mr. Donald Powell. The word “defendant” should be banned. At trial, Mr. Powell hereby demands be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.” Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.

Moreover, defense counsel does not wish to be referred to as a “lawyer,” or a “defense attorney.” Those terms are substantially more prejudicial than probative. See Tenn. R. Evid. 403. Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the “Defender of the Innocent.” This title seems particularly appropriate, because every Citizen Accused is presumed innocent. Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation “Guardian of the Realm.” Further, the Citizen Accused humbly requests an appropriate military title for his own representative, to match that of the opposing counsel. Whenever addressed by name, the name “Captain Justice” will be appropriate. While less impressive than “General,” still, the more humble term seems suitable. After all, the Captain represents only a Citizen Accused, whereas the General represents an entire State.

Along these same lines, even the term “defense” does not sound very likeable. The whole idea of being defensive, comes across to most people as suspicious. So to prevent the jury from being unfairly misled by this ancient English terminology, the opposition to the Plaintiff hereby names itself “the Resistance.” Obviously, this terminology need only extend throughout the duration of the trial — not to any pre-trial motions. During its heroic struggle against the State,the Resistance goes on the attack, not just the defense.

And to think, I’ve actually considered filing motions in trial stage courts-martial to prevent the trial counsel from referring to himself as “the Government.”

Though, to be fair, the trial counsel have undoubtedly considered filing motions seeking to call me different things too.

In the Tennessee case, the Government’s motion was denied.

7 Responses to “In some places counsel actually object to being called “the Government””

  1. SFC Vrana says:

    Prof. O’brien was joking about this with us in post conviction remedies yesterday. The response is classic.

  2. stewie says:

    Depends on how it’s pronounced.  Government is not derogatory.
    Gub’mint might be.

  3. SgtDad says:

    I always refer to the government as “the government,” though they are mostly administrative proceedings these days. On occasion the Asst AG will object & demand I use “the Department.” Now that I have a case to cite, things will be more fun.
    I do like the notion of being called “Sgt. Justice,” however.  In fact, mayhap I be a “Sergeant at Law?”  More fun to come, methinks.

  4. Frank Rosenblatt says:

    Hilarious!  Thanks for sharing. 

  5. Steve says:

    Captain Justice 500 should be posted to Major and displayed on every page. 

  6. Dyskolos says:

    Now that was funny. Good to see that wit is still appreciated (and persuasive). “The Government” got what it deserved.