Judge Gardner’s Impressive Fan Club (Gardner)

Judge Robert Gardner

Lawhaha.com Hall of Fame Judge Robert Gardner

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, a Lawhaha.com Strange Judicial Opinions Hall-of-Famer, took time to send in his praise for another Hall of Fame judge who dared to be different, and did it with class: California Court of Appeals Judge Robert Gardner.

Judge K said Gardner is one of his heroes, and included his favorite Gardner quote, from People v. Benton. Although it involves profanity, as Judge Kozinski said, it’s for a good cause:

Mrs. Barnhill and her daughter, Sainna Okeson, were seated at the kitchen table in Mrs. Barnhill’s apartment on Keel Street in Anaheim on the evening of August 2, 1976. Around midnight, a … man entered. With pistol in hand, he said, “Don’t say a word, don’t say a mother-f****** word.” [Fn.1]

[Fn.1] It is a sad commentary on contemporary culture to compare “Don’t say a word, don’t say a mother-f****** word” with “Stand and deliver,” the famous salutation of Dick Turpin and other early English highwaymen. It is true that both salutations lead to robbery. However, there is a certain rich style to “Stand and deliver.” On the other hand, “Don’t say a word, don’t say a mother-f****** word” conveys only dismal vulgarity.

The speech of the contemporary criminal culture has always been a rich source of color and vitality to any language. Yet, when one compares the “bawds,” “strumpets,” “trulls,” “cut-purses,” “knaves,” and “rascals” of Fielding and Smollett to the “hookers,” “pimps,” “Narcs,” “junkies,” and “snitches” of today’s criminal argot, one wonders just which direction we are traveling civilization’s ladder. “Hooker,” at least, has traceable historical antecedents—although the descendants of General “Fighting Joe” Hooker would probably prefer that their famous ancestor be remembered for something other than his army’s camp followers—such as the slaughter at Chancellorsville.

Judge Gardner used the full term without the asterisks, making it viscerally funnier, but Lawhaha.com tries to stay family friendly.

People v. Benton, 77 Cal. App. 3d 322, 324 & n.1 (1978).

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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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