Category Archives: Humor

Halloween Lawsuits: Scary Stuff

Costumes gone awry, haunted houses, and mean-spirited decorations – oh my!  Have care while celebrating Halloween this week, because as these cases show, Halloween is fertile ground for lawsuits:

Mary and Her (flaming) Little Lamb
Susan and Frank Ferlito attended a Halloween party dressed as Mary and Her Little Lamb.  Frank’s lamb costume consisted of hundreds of Johnson & Johnson cotton balls glued to a set of long underwear.  While at the party, Frank tried to light a cigarette using a butane lighter and set his costume aflame, causing significant burn injuries.

Frank sued. A jury found in favor of Frank, but the District Court held that Johnson & Johnson’s failure to label their cotton balls as flammable was not a proximate cause of Frank’s injuries, that the injuries were not foreseeable, and that the jury’s verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence.  The court concluded, “Plaintiffs…failed to demonstrate the foreseeability of an adult male encapsulating himself from head to toe in cotton batting and then lighting up a cigarette.”  The Sixth Circuit Court of appeals upheld the District Court’s ruling.

Haunted, as a matter of law
Jeffrey Stambovsky bought a lovely Victorian home in the Village of Nyack, New York, only to find out (much to his horror) that the house was widely reputed to be haunted.  In fact, the seller had reported seeing ghosts in the home in both a national publication (Readers’ Digest) and the local press.  Jeffrey sought to rescind his purchase contract and collect damages.  The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, agreed that Jeffrey should be able to rescind the contract and held that as to the purported ghosts haunting the home, the seller “is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”

Dead Neighbors
A neighborhood feud over a 38-foot RV led Jeffrey and Vicki Purtell to display a series of tombstones in their yard, each of which chronicled the demise of one of the neighbors involved in the feud.  One tombstone read: “Bette wasn’t ready, but here she lies, ever since that night she died, 12 feet deep in this trench… Still wasn’t deep enough, for that wenches stench!” The Purtell’s lawsuit in this case was brought against the unlucky police officer who was dispatched to mediate the dispute and sued for his efforts, accused of violating the Purtell’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Judges are Movie Lovers Too

The Justices of the Texas Supreme Court must be movie lovers.  In the recent Kinney V. Barnes opinion, Justice Lehrmann quotes Walter Sobchak, a character in the cult favorite The Big Lebowski. Lehrmann states that “The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is similarly suspicious of prior restraints,” and goes on to point out that “This cornerstone of First Amendment protections has been reaffirmed time and again by the Supreme Court, this Court, Texas courts of appeals, legal treatises, and even popular culture.”  The popular culture reference is to Walter’s statement in the 1998 film: “For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint…This affects all of us, man! Our basic freedoms!”

 

A 2008 Texas Supreme Court concurring opinion also cites a well-known movie character: Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.  In this case, Justice Willett joined by Justice Lehrmann, writes that “Appropriately weighty principles guide our course. First, we recognize that police power draws from the credo that ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.’ Second, while this maxim rings utilitarian and Dickensian (not to mention Vulcan), it is cabined by something contrarian and Texan: distrust of intrusive government and a belief that police power is justified only by urgency, not expediency.”  The footnote for this statement references Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which Spock tells Admiral Kirk “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”

For your reading pleasure, we rounded up a few other court opinions and orders that quote movies:

Noble v. Bradford Marine, Inc. (1992)
This 1992 decision from the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida contains multiple references to the movie Wayne’s World, including sections labeled “Hurling Chunks” and “A Schwing and a Miss.”  In addition, the decision holds that the defendants’ “most bogus” attempt at removal is “not worthy” and “way improvident.”  The District Court concludes that the defendant must “party on” in state court and remands the case.

Factac v. King (2006)
This 2006 order from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas dismisses the defendant’s motion based on “incomprehensibility” and cites a scene from the movie Billy Madison in support: “Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Finals Fun: 1L Peeps Study Group

In 2009 the Law Library won the ABA Journal’s Peeps in Law contest for our 1L Peeps Study Group.  Our winning entry is below.  The Law Library staff wishes you luck studying for your finals.

 

A diligent group of law student peeps study for their upcoming final exams in the Arizona State University Ross-Blakley Library. All are wannapeep  Peep Masons and Ally McPeeps. They are studying hard, hoping to learn it all before their brains turn to marshmallow. Alas, too late for 1L C. Little – he has had a meltdown! Since the law librarian is watchful, and the 1Ls  are courteous library citizens, they are using their best inside peep cheeps.

Well, this gives new meaning to “drafting a brief”

Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So when one attorney was asked to keep his amicus brief…brief, he used pictures to illustrate his point.

As told by the always entertaining and informative Above the Law:

For anyone who has ever been frustrated by a judge’s imposition of silly page limits, just follow the lead of Bob Kohn. He filed a brief regarding the Justice Department’s proposed settlement in the long-standing e-book (so appropriate, right?) price-fixing case involving Amazon, Apple, and some of America’s largest publishers…

Kohn is the chairman and chief executive of RoyaltyShare and one of the more outspoken critics of the settlement put forth in the spring by the DOJ with three e-book publishers, according to the New York Times Media Decoder blog.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote forced him to keep his argument to five pages, so instead of getting mad, he got creative. He enlisted the help of his daughter, Kate (the other main character in the comic), and her Harvard classmate, Julia Alekseyeva, to draw it.

You can draw your own conclusions, about whether this is a picture-perfect brief, by viewing whole thing here.

SunCard Reader Dance Moves!

The Ross-Blakley Law Library observes a Limited Access Policy. Starting Monday, to enter the main doors of the law library, you must swipe your SunCard at the card reader. (If you’re not an ASU affiliate, we’ll ask you to sign in at the front desk)
 
Law Students: here are some tips to help you learn about swiping your SunCard at the card reader.
 

SunCard in your front pocket? Try "The Flamenco!"

 

 

 

 Don't want to dig through your backpack? Do the "Backpack Backbend"

 

 

 

 

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle with "The Fosse"

 

 

 Love the nightlife? Got to boogie? Do the "Disco!"

 

 

 

Whether you have the "Moves Like Jagger" or not...

 

 …make sure your SunCard is activated!

Ask at the front desk if you need help! Stop by today between 1:00 and 5:00 and we’ll even throw in a free root beer float!

(Hat tip to former law library employee Serene Rock, who observed many SunCard reader dance moves over the years!)

Tax Consequences of a Zombie Apocalypse

In a zombie apocalypse the two certainties in life, death and taxes, may not be so certain.  Fortunately, College of Law professor Adam Chodorow has recognized that the current estate and income tax laws do not adequately address the tax implications of being undead and has tackled the topic of estate planning for the living dead in his article Death and Taxes and Zombies, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Iowa Law Review.

The article’s abstract details the subject matter: “This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead. Beginning with the critical question of whether the undead should be considered dead for estate tax purposes, the article continues on to address income tax issues the undead are likely to face. In addition to zombies, the article also considers how estate and income tax laws should apply to vampires and ghosts. Given the difficulties identified herein of applying existing tax law to the undead, new legislation may be warranted. However, any new legislation is certain to raise its own set of problems. The point here is not to identify the appropriate approach. Rather, it is to goad Congress and the IRS into action before it is too late.”

Chodorow’s article brings up issues that may actually have to be addressed if technology designed to bring back individuals from death is ever developed.  In the mean time, however, it’s a really fun read, as exemplified by footnote 91 below:

91 Given their longevity, vampires would also have significant advantages with compounding interest and the tax deferral provided by IRAs and other tax advantaged savings plans, such as whole life insurance. Vampires would presumably be subject to mandatory withdrawals at age 70 and 1/2, see I.R.C. §§ 408(b)(3), §401(a)(9), but it is not clear how the amount of withdrawals would be calculated because the traditional actuarial mortality charts would not apply.

Another interesting question would be whether a vampire qualifies as a “life in being” for purposes of the rule against perpetuities. If so the rule would functionally cease to operate in those states that have not already abandoned the rule. While vampires would not need to create trusts to exercise the undead hand, they might want to create self-settled asset protection trusts or trusts to provide for underage or spendthrift offspring in the event they are exposed to sunlight or a well placed wooden stake. If they could find a jurisdiction that does not tax trust income, such as Alaska, all the better. This may explain why the vampires who threatened Bella in the first Twilight book spent time in Alaska.

Using Physics to Beat a Traffic Ticket

 

Lacking a legal argument to get out of your traffic ticket?  Try physics.  Dmitri Krioukov, a UC San Diego physicist, submitted a four-page physics paper to a city traffic commissioner arguing that three coincidences occurred at the same time, making a nearby police officer believe that he had seen him run a red light, when really he had not.  Krioukov writes in the paper, “We show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police officer, located at a certain distance perpendicular to the car trajectory, must have an illusion that the car does not stop, if the following three conditions are satisfied: (1) the observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) the car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) there is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign.”

You can read the paper Krioukov submitted to the court, “The Proof of Innocence,” here.

In the end Krioukov did get out of his ticket.  However, the San Diego Superior Court commissioner who heard the case, Karen  Riley, states that it was not the physics argument that was persuasive, but the fact that the police officer was not close enough to the intersection to have a good view of the light.

Read more about the case on the San Diego Union-Tribune website.

Be My Valentine – Lawyer Edition

Some people say it with Shakespeare.

Others crank up the sultry Soul songs of Marvin Gaye or Barry White.

Be My Valentine (Legally Binding)But why speak the language of love when you can woo them with the language of law?

At Docracy.com’s Be My Valentine – Lawyer Edition, you can “send a romantic yet legally defensible Valentine’s Day Card to that special someone.”

Hat-tip and Happy Valentine’s Day wishes to former RBLL Reference Librarian Amy Levine!

Highlighting New Books at the Law Library

Lawyer: A Brief 5,000 Year History
By R. Blain Andrus
Law Treatises K183 .A53 2009

R. Blain Andrus opens his book Lawyer: A Brief 5,000 Year History by theorizing how a legal team might have represented Adam and Eve before God, and whether a good lawyer could have “saved” them.  He argues that the Book of Genesis is the best beginning for his romp through legal history, as it is in Genesis that God brought order out of chaos—and what better place to start looking for lawyers than in a swirling mass of chaos?   Through six parts (Biblical Times, Pagan Times, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Medieval Times, and Modern Times), Andrus goes on to address such topics as the origins of black robes and white wigs, the establishment of common law, the function of English inns of court, the development of the modern-day law school, and the rise of the billable hour.

Andrus’ book is a hysterical and scholarly narrative chronicling the history of lawyers.   The author, a lawyer himself, has made a diligent effort to explore the dark corners of history in search of the beginnings of the legal profession, and to follow the vocation through the centuries to its present-day manifestation.  He also explores the deep question of “whether lawyers have been and continue to be a social good or are simply an uncomfortable fact of the human condition” in the book, making this both an entertaining and an enlightening read.

Highlighting New Books at the Law Library

Ever wondered where the term “rainmaker” came from? Or the origins of “blackmail”?  A new book in the library collection explains how many of the legal terms that we use everyday developed.

Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions
By James E. Clapp, Elizabeth G. Thornburg, Marc Galanter, and Fred R. Shapiro
Law Reference KF156 .L39 2011

For those of you familiar with the rules of evidence, this entry may be of interest:

  • Hearsay: This term originated in a 16th century textbook on French language that included English translations.  In one of the discussions, a cleric attempts to explain the properties of earth, water, air, and fire, but admits that this is not his area of expertise.  He states French words meaning “I know nothing about it except by hearing it said.” This was translated in the book to English as “I know nothing of it but by hear say.”  The phrase “by hear say” gradually began to appear in English writings, eventually as a single word: “hearsay.”

Separate entries in Lawtalk for each legal expression offer interesting and surprising aspects of the word’s evolution.  The authors also address urban myths and common misconceptions, and lightheaded sidebars on many entries offer jokes and comic historical material.

Hat tip to The Faculty Lounge