United States

PG&E Trial: Judge Lashes Out at Lawyers' Bickering

The PG&E federal jury asked for relief Wednesday from the seemingly endless questioning of witnesses while the judge lashed out at the constantly bickering lawyers in the case.

After a month of testimony, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson urged defense lawyers to expedite their cross examination of government.

“We’re so far behind” in the predicted eight-week timetable for the prosecution case, “let’s move faster,” the judge said.

He also asked whether the jury would be willing to extend the court day by as much as two hours, given that it currently ends at 1:30 p.m.

Jurors agreed to stay longer, but in a note to the judge, they “asked the attorneys to commit to be succinct.”

Neither prosecutors nor the defense responded when Henderson mentioned the jury’s plea.

Earlier this week, Henderson lamented about the seemingly endless evidence disputes, saying that the case was the most “awful” trial he has ever presided over in his more than three decades on the bench.

The bickering continued Wednesday after testimony ended. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Schenk presented the court with a box of documents – PG&E’s entire articles of incorporation – citing the defense’s refusal to agree that PG&E fell under the definitions of a company under federal pipeline safety regulations.

Lead defense lawyer Steve Bauer said he was happy to stipulate that PG&E was indeed a company.

“I’m tired of this,” the normally low-key judge thundered in response to the dispute. “This is outrageous.”

Henderson sarcastically suggested that any contact between the two sides should be tape recorded and vouched for by five witnesses before being summarized to the court.

In the end, he said, the attorneys should stop making arguments on evidence disputes before him and instead make legal motions.

“I don’t know how to sift through this to find out who is telling the truth and what is going on.”

Contact Us