Judge Evans Hits a Home Run (Evans)

Judge Terence Evans funny opinions

Judge Terence T. Evans - Lawhaha.com Hall of Fame Judge

Judge Terence T. Evans, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, passed away on August 11, 2011. Here’s a nice tribute to him on the Marquette law school (where he attended law school) faculty blog.

All accounts of Judge Evans and his life mention his keen sense of humor, which certainly shined through in several his judicial opinions. He’s elected to Lawhaha.com’s Strange Judicial Opinions Hall of Fame for the way he pragmatically and cleverly wove humor, especially sports and pop culture, into his opinions, never resorting to sarcasm or belittling as means for amusement. Lawhaha.com’s entries of Evans’ opinions were written long before his death:

If ESPN ever needs a replacement for Chris Berman, here is the perfect candidate: Judge Terence T. Evans of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

This is a guy with such a deep love for sports that he began his opinion in Hunt’s Generator Committee v. Babcock & Wilcox Co. expressing the wistful sentiment that he would rather be getting ready to watch the World Series than writing an opinion about successor liability for a landfill cleanup. He asked forgiveness if his mind wandered a bit in the opinion.

And wander it did. Reciting the dates of the landfill’s operation sparked fond baseball memories for Judge Evans.

So what that the landfill began operating in September 1959. That date has much more important baseball significance, as Judge Evans explained in this footnote:

FN1. September of 1959 was an exciting time. The San Francisco Giants–who blew off Manhattan’s Polo Grounds after the 1957 season–were leading the Dodgers and the Braves (Milwaukee, not Atlanta) by two games with eight to go in the race for the National League Pennant. But the Giants were playing in old Seals Stadium (a minor league park), a place not suited for World Series play. If they made it to the Series, they thought, they might want to play in the yet unfinished Candlestick Park. They were in a pickle–which way would they go? Fortunately, their old friends, the Dodgers (who, like the Giants, had broken hearts the year before by running away from Ebbets Field) came to the rescue. The Dodgers beat the Giants three straight times over the weekend of September 19-20, sending the Giants reeling into third place. There would be no need to choose between Candlestick Park and Seals Stadium. …

Another party operated the landfill until September 1970, but again, Judge Evans was distracted by the date’s importance to the national pastime:

FN2. In September of 1970, the Milwaukee Brewers were drawing the curtain on their maiden campaign in Milwaukee. Despite the fact that they finished 65-97, 33 games out of the race, baseball was back in town and Milwaukee fans were loving it.

Other important dates included April 8, 1975, the day asset acquisition on the landfill was closed, but more significantly:

FN4. April 8, 1975, was the one-year anniversary of Henry Aaron’s historical 715th dinger which broke Babe Ruth’s lifetime record of 714.

In Olinger v. U.S. Golf Ass’n, Judge Evans demonstrated that his sports knowledge is not limited to baseball. Olinger was a suit by a disabled professional golfer seeking to be allowed to use a golf cart in the U.S. Open, in conflict with the rule that all participants must walk (the U.S. Supreme Court later decided in golfer Casey Martin’s case that the rule must give way under the ADA).

Judge Evans’ defense of the tradition that players must walk is not only impassioned, but provides enough golf factoids to fill a Trivial Pursuit game dedicated solely to golf (fitting, since the activity is one of the quintessential trivial pursuits). For example, did you know that the official “Rules of Golf” provide a two-stroke penalty for asking an opponent how far away he thinks the green is?

Hunt’s Generator Comm. v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 863 F. Supp. 879, 881–82 nn. 1, 2, 4 (E.D. Wis. 1994); Olinger v. U.S. Golf Ass’n, 205 F.3d 1001, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000). Thanks to Cynthia Cohan.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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