Only Judge Kent Could Insult Six Nations in One Paragraph (Kent)

Here’s another widely circulated sarcastic opinion from former U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, Galveston, Texas. Say what you want about Kent, and there is plenty to say, he was a clever writer.  And who else could insult six entire nations in a single paragraph (the first one below)?

The governments of several foreign countries sued American tobacco companies for health care costs allegedly caused by the defendants’ product. Judge Kent, in his inimitable way, sua sponte transferred the case to the District of Columbia:

The governments of Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Thailand, Venezuela, and Bolivia have filed suit in [several geographically diverse locales in the U.S.] Why none of these countries seems to have a court system their own governments have confidence in is a mystery to this Court. Moreover, given the tremendous number of United States jurisdictions encompassing fascinating and exotic places, the Court can hardly imagine why the Republic of Bolivia elected to file suit in the veritable hinterlands of Brazoria County, Texas. The Court seriously doubts whether Brazoria County has ever seen a live Bolivian … even on the Discovery Channel.

Though only here by removal, this humble Court by the sea is certainly flattered by what must be the worldwide renown of rural Texas courts for dispensing justice with unparalleled fairness and alacrity, apparently in common discussion even on the mountain peaks of Bolivia! Still, the Court would be remiss in accepting an obligation for which it truly does not have the necessary resources …

[T]he capacity of this Court to address the complex and sophisticated issues of international law and foreign relations presented by this case is dwarfed by that of its esteemed colleagues in the District of Columbia who deftly address such awesome tasks as a matter of course. … Such a Bench, well-populated with genuinely renowned intellects, can certainly better bear and share the burden of multidistrict litigation than this single judge division, where the judge moves his lips when he reads ….

[I]t is the Court’s opinion that the District of Columbia, located in this Nation’s capital, is a much more logical venue for the parties and witnesses in this action because, among other things, Plaintiff has an embassy in Washington, D.C., and thus a physical presence and governmental representatives there, whereas there isn’t even a Bolivian restaurant anywhere near here! Although the jurisdiction of this Court boasts no similar foreign offices, a somewhat dated globe is within its possession.

While the Court does not therefrom profess to understand all of the political subtleties of the geographical transmogrifications ongoing in Eastern Europe, the Court is virtually certain that Bolivia is not within the four counties over which this Court presides, even though the words Bolivia and Brazoria are a lot alike and caused some real, initial confusion until the Court conferred with its law clerks. Thus, it is readily apparent, even from an outdated globe such as that possessed by this Court, that Bolivia, a hemisphere away, ain’t in south-central Texas, and that, at the very least, the District of Columbia is a more appropriate venue (though Bolivia isn’t located there either).

Furthermore, as this Judicial District bears no significant relationship to any of the matters at issue, and the judge of this Court simply loves cigars, the Plaintiff can be expected to suffer neither harm nor prejudice by a transfer to Washington, D.C., a Bench better able to rise to the smoky challenges presented by this case, despite the alleged and historic presence there of countless “smoke-filled” rooms.

Republic of Bolivia v. Philip Morris Cos., 39 F. Supp. 2d 1008, 1009–10 (S.D. Tex. 1999). Thanks to Bob Van Voris.

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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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