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The cat’s meow: Legal profession’s finest hour | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, February 12, 2021 @ 3:34 PM | By Marcel Strigberger


Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
I thought I taw a puddytat. 

I did see a puddytat, a Texas judge noted, when lawyer Rod Ponton on a Zoom hearing appeared at the session in the form of a talking cat, due to a filter accidentally not being disabled from his computer’s Zoom settings. With the judge’s help the lawyer was able to delete it. However the live stream recording, where Ponton says, “I am not a cat,” has gone viral. He also asks, “Judge can you hear me? Meow.” (Not sure about the meow, but I do believe I heard him purr).

Ponton took the potentially embarrassing event in great spirits. He noted in an interview, “If I can make the country chuckle for a moment in these difficult times they’re going through, I’m happy to let them do that at my expense.”

In my view this event was a red-letter day in the legal world, elevating the image of lawyers exponentially. It evoked the polar opposite the public’s image of the law, such as some long-wigged judge at the Old Bailey sentencing a teenager for stealing a banana to a one-way trip to Australia.      

Although the filter was eventually removed, on second thought, maybe actually using these filters routinely in Zoom proceedings may be a good thing. Lawyers these days especially should be given every opportunity to embrace any technology that can enhance their self-image and the image of the profession. For example if a lawyer’s confidence is on the ebb, he or she should be encouraged to use an empowering filter. I am thinking something like that MGM lion. The Zoom session starts, and the lawyer opens his argument with a loud roar.   

We have to lighten up. Other animals might work too, such as an owl (wise), a beagle (determined), or if it’s a high court, a giraffe (never mind; no explanation necessary). It all makes us lawyers look more human.

Of course we need not confine these filters to animals. Let’s think out of the box, or rather out of the cage. We can use filters depicting literary icons such as Atticus Finch, Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes, smoking his pipe. (That’s OK. Virtual pipe. Nowhere on Zoom does it say, “no smoking”).

Or we can go with another favourite, Scarlett O’Hara. In the unlikely event that she loses the argument, she can say, “Tomorrow is another day.”

And in these difficult times we should especially be embracing heroes. Take your pick: Churchill? Ghandi? Mother Teresa? Given the virus with its variants, as a symbol of courage I’d pick the FedEx guy. 

You will note that the video in addition to the handsome feline, also shows the faces of two other lawyers. Of interest is their virtual lack of expression or reaction while this novel sequence was running. After all shouldn’t they find it a bit unusual to engage in a court proceeding only to see their opponent in the form a talking tabby? Where was their curiosity? Were they afraid it might kill the cat?

They were no doubt understandably taken aback and really did not know how to react. They could have said something like: “You look a bit different today Rod? No glasses?” Or “After this is over, how about getting together for a bowl of milk. I’ll buy.” Or they could have at least offered a simple greeting, “Good morning Felix.”

But as the judge noted, everyone involved handled it with dignity, showing incredible grace. And true professionalism all around. 

Actually of interest was that the video did not show the judge’s image. Why not? My guess is that the judge was ahead of the game and also spoke through a filter, coming out a cat. The Cheshire Cat. He was actually there initially but as the camera started recording, he vanished. I did look carefully to see whether perhaps he left a bright grin in the air. I did not see one but then again, maybe he was still a Cheshire Cat, Texas variant. Hiss Y’all.

This week has been one of the legal profession’s finest hours.

I do wonder about one thing. I don’t know the outcome of the case but if Ponton lost, does he have nine appeals? 

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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