Those who have been reading this weblog for a while know that I’ve got a thing for JMOL rulings. They are hands down not just the most useful documents to review for a forensic understanding of what happened in a particular case, but also to learn what the requirements are for claims and defenses.
My interest in JMOLs started before I even started practicing law. In the winter of 1991 I was in my last quarter at Baylor Law School, preparing for my upcoming clerkship with Judge Hall in Marshall by interning for a federal judge in Waco and taking Federal Courts from Prof. Bill Underwood, who had just started at Baylor the prior year. Prof. Underwood emphasized the importance of knowing the FRCPs by pronouncing that if we didn’t know the forthcoming Dec. 1, 1991 amendments to the FRCPs, we wouldn’t pass his class. As a result, I spent the next ten years as (it seemed) the only lawyer east of Dallas that knew what the rules were on subpoena range – because they were in that batch of rule changes.
I have to mention that this was before Prof. Underwood became the Baylor Practice Court professor, a job he held before becoming Baylor’s interim president from 2005-2006, a job he did surprisingly well in. I say “surprisingly” because it’s hard to picture a Baylor PC professor excelling in a job that doesn’t involve torturing law students. It’s like finding out that Genghis Khan took a sabbatical from pillaging to run a successful Habitat for Humanity program. Or a T-rex taking a break from chasing sauropods to set up a child care program for Triceratops eggs. It’s just not expected. I note that Professor Underwood has continued his career outside the fields of torture and despair enhancement as president of Mercer University since 2006, and I wish him well. Again, I didn’t have him for PC, so this is easy for me to say.
Where was I? Oh, yes, JMOLs. Guess what else was in those Dec. 1, 1991 amendments? The motion previously known as a “directed verdict” was renamed “judgment as a matter of law” and given a new scope. And wouldn’t you know it, nine months later I’m minding my own business at the law clerk’s table in the courtroom in Marshall when Judge Hall grants one of these newfangled motions, sends the jury home, and promises a written order.
What came out of that 13 days later was Johnson v. Bekins Van Lines, 808 F.Supp. 545 (E.D. Tex. 1992) – one of the first reported cases using the new name and standard, and a foxhole’s-eye view as to the new rule in the most sensitive of contexts – a court deciding that the evidence was insufficient for the case to go to the jury. I still have the advance sheet on a shelf in my office, and I’ve never stopped appreciating the unique insight that the explanations contained in JMOL rulings can provide into a case.
The most recent JMOL from the EDTX comes from Tyler, in