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Rock, paper, scissors - and gavel - will settle it

 An exasperated judge orders two feuding attorneys to resolve their dispute with an old child’s game. 

Published June 7, 2006

TAMPA — For more than a year, two Tampa lawyers have been duking it out over an insurance settlement stemming from 2004’s Hurricane Charley.

The case of Avista Management vs. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Co. grew so contentious, the attorneys couldn’t even decide on a location to take a deposition and asked a judge to decide for them.

That’s when U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell ran out of patience.

In an order filed Tuesday in federal court in Orlando, the judge told the attorneys to meet at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 30. If they can’t decide on a location, they are to appear on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Tampa.

“At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one game of 'rock, paper, scissors,’” Presnell wrote. “The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the … deposition.”

The unusual request isn’t out of character for Presnell, who has a reputation as one of the more outspoken members of the bench.

Earlier this year, Presnell wrote an opinion blasting the disparities in sentences for users of crack and powder cocaine. He is also a strident critic of federal sentencing guidelines, which he called “at best schizophrenic and at worst contrary to the basic principles of justice.”

David Pettinato, a lawyer for Avista Management, said he clearly understood the judge’s less-than-subtle jab.

“I’m trying to heed the judge’s hidden message, which is to try to work out our issues,” he said. “But we just can’t seem to meet in the middle.”

In the meantime, Pettinato said, he’s planning to practice his moves with his two daughters, ages 5 and 9.

Carrie Weimar can be reached at (813) 226-3416 or

[Last modified June 7, 2006, 22:04:47]

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