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.”