Maybe a bar of soap would work better.
A federal judge in Philadelphia has fined a foul-mouthed CEO and his lawyer $29,323 for making a "spectacular failure" out of a court-related proceeding in what has become a most uncivil civil case.
Over 12 hours on two days in the fall, Aaron Wider, a mortgage company owner from Long Island, N.Y., launched the F-bomb or some variation 73 times.
Wider's expletive-spewing rants forced his deposition to a premature end, and shocked U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno, who later said he had never seen anything like it in his three decades in the legal profession.
Now Wider's testimony has become an Internet hit with financial and legal bloggers who have dubbed it "The Deposition From Heck."
Transcripts and video of the deposition show Wider taking out his frustrations - with snarling and sarcastic four-letter invectives that can't be reprinted here - on opposing counsel Robert Bodzin of Philadelphia.
There was nary a curse that he didn't hurl.
At one point in the deposition, taken at a New York court-reporting agency, Bodzin asked Wider what his company, HTFC Corp., stood for.
"Hit that [bleeping] clown," the 43-year-old chief executive officer said. (It stands for High Tech Financial Corp.)
Bodzin represents GMAC Bank of Philadelphia, which is suing HTFC on breach-of-contract allegations that it sold millions of dollars in improperly secured home loans. The companies have reached a tentative settlement, but GMAC is seeking to sue the CEO individually in what could set up a Wider vs. Bodzin rematch.
In an interview last week, Wider was unapologetic. He defended his vocabulary as a mix of free speech and colloquialism.
"It's in usage," he said of the F-word. And using it, he added, is his "constitutional right."
Wider called the fine "nothing more than censorship," and insisted he had never impeded the deposition.
But Wider was so over the top that Robreno said in a telephone conference with the parties: "I've been around civil proceedings for 30 years, both as a lawyer and as a judge. I've never seen anything like this."
He continued: "There are thousands of depositions that take place every day in our system of justice. If they were to proceed along the lines that this deposition has proceeded on, frankly I think the system would collapse."
Likewise, Bodzin said he had conducted hundreds of depositions in 29 years as a lawyer and had never before run into someone like Wider.
"It was surreal," he said. "This person seemed to be someone of significant intellect, and you would think that he would recognize that even if he believed what he was saying it wasn't in his best interest."
Robreno ordered the fines in late February, and took the unusual step of sanctioning Wider's attorney, Joseph Ziccardi of Chicago, for not reining in his client. Together, they were ordered to pay $29,323 - the amount GMAC spent on the ill-fated deposition and court costs.
"Wider's conduct was outrageous," Robreno wrote. "Ziccardi's complicity is inexcusable."
Ziccardi has asked the court to withdraw as Wider's lawyer and has appealed the sanction. As a result, Robreno is reconsidering the fines.
Ziccardi's lawyer, Samuel Stretton of West Chester, said his client had tried to curb Wider.
"But if a client refuses to listen to the advice, there is only so much you can do," Stretton said.
No matter the outcome, Wider said in an interview that he has no intention of paying any fine.
"I will go down in history as someone who defied the federal government. . . . I have defied one man who comes from a communist country," Wider said of Robreno, the nation's first Cuban-born American appointed to a federal court. "If he told Fidel Castro to go [bleep] himself, he would be in prison."
Wider later called a reporter and asked to retract that statement.
"I don't want to go to jail," he said.
To see "The Deposition From Heck," Part II, click here: Video