Several former students sent me this video of Adam Ruins Everything’s explanation of the infamous McDonald’s coffee spill case. They thanked me for telling them the truth in Torts about the grossly distorted case. I actually stopped talking about it a few years ago, but may need to bring it back because the distorted view still seems prevalent. I guess we could call it an early form of “fake news.” Unfortunately, it was all too real for poor Stella Liebeck.
The video does a great job, in a humorous way, of summarizing key points, including: (1) Stella was a 79-year-old passenger in a parked car when she accidentally spilled the coffee on herself (not driving while trying to add cream and sugar); (2) She initially sought only a small amount from McDonald’s for her medical expenses (not a greedy, litigious person); (3) She suffered third-degree burns that her doctor said was the one of the worst cases he had ever seen; (4) The temperature of the coffee was around 190 degrees; (5) Evidence at trial showed 700 prior McDonald’s coffee burn instances; (6) McDonald’s own witness testified the coffee was a hazard at the temperature it was served; (7) The $2.7 million verdict was mostly punitive damages, which the jury calculated by awarding what testimony showed would equal two days worth of McDonald’s coffee sales; and (8) The damages award was reduced by the trial court so that, in the end, Stella only received about $600,000 (of which her lawyer probably received a third, plus expenses).
Only thing missing to drive the point home that this case was anything but frivolous is an image of Stella’s horrific injuries from a spilled cup of coffee, which we included in previous mentions of the case here and here.
PUBLISHER AND AMAZON HAVE TEAMED FOR HUGE DISCOUNT ON 1L OF A RIDE BOOK AND VIDEO COURSE BUNDLE – $43.91 reduced from regular price of $80 and only five bucks more than the freestanding book.
Check out some sample video clips for the new 1L of a Ride Video Course (West Academic Press 2016) based on McClurg’s bestselling law school prep book of the same name. In addition to McClurg, the 13-part series features award-winning law professors Christine Coughlin (Wake Forest), Meredith Duncan (University of Houston), and Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City).
Each video is roughly ten minutes, followed by a short self-assessment quiz. The videos include:
1. Introduction to the Video Course
2. Planning Ahead and Biggest Fears
3. Structure and Role of U.S. Courts
4. Socratic and Case Methods
5. Overview of First-Year Curriculum
6. First-Year Sample Course: Torts
7. How to Read and Brief a Case
8. The C.R.E.D.O.—Top Five Habits of Successful Law Students
9. Essential Study Techniques
10. Legal Research Basics
11. Legal Writing Basics
12. Managing Stress and Maintaining Well-Being
Research shows students gain not only from reading, but seeing and hearing, in part because video helps accommodate diverse learning styles. Use the videos to enhance comprehension and retention. Studies also show students prefer and benefit from one-on-one facetime with professors, which the videos, while no match for the real thing, can help simulate.
The video course is available as a standalone product or bundled with a print or e-copy of the book (recommended) here at the West Academic Publishing Store.
When a defense lawyer in a defective building case says “scare and kill” when he means to say “care and skill,” is that just being tongue-tied, or is it a Freudian slip?
From a judge friend comes this:
In a recent motion hearing in a multi-party construction case, the attorney for the developer of the allegedly defective building intended to refer in his argument to his client’s “care and skill” in constructing the involved building. He got a little tongue-tied, however: instead of referring to his client’s construction method as involving “care and skill,” he identified it as one involving “scare and kill.”
Simplistically, a Freudian slip is an unintentional word snafu that reveals subconscious thoughts or feelings.
A lawyer friend in Jacksonville, FL sent along this funny story about a plaintiff who objected to his complaint being dismissed “with prejudice”:
At a mediation, a settlement agreement was reached, so the mediator formalized it in a written document. The plaintiff’s lawyer was going over each of the terms in the document with the plaintiff. When they got to the term that stated “Plaintiff will dismiss the Complaint with prejudice,” the client looked up and adamantly stated, “I will not! I am not prejudiced, and believe everyone is equal under the eyes of God.”
For non-lawyers, “dismissed with prejudice” is a legal term of art meaning that a case cannot be re-filed. “Dismissed without prejudice” means that case can later be re-filed. Needless to say, for settlements and other final dispositions of cases, defendants insist that the case be dismissed with prejudice.
Insurance law expert and all-around funny, clever guy Randy Maniloff has come up with a fun test for spelling out the names of 10 famous U.S. Supreme Court cases using only emoji. How did this come about? He explains in his latest issue of Coverage Opinions:
The other night I was out to dinner with my 9 year old daughter. As we waited for her mac & cheese to arrive I decided to give her a lesson on the Supreme Court. I figured I’d start with the basic operation of the federal judiciary. From there move on to some landmark Supreme Court cases. And by dessert we’d be discussing the Necessary and Proper Clause. But she wanted no part of it – begging me to stop.
So I took a different tack. I’d tell her about a case and then she would use my phone to find emojis to write out the case name. This idea she loved. While it didn’t last long, as dinner arrived, it gave me an idea: The Supreme Court “Emoji Challenge.”
For non-lawyers, the first takeaway from this is how geeky lawyers can be. My own daughter grew up playing “Spot the Tort.”
I confess I fared poorly on the exam, but maybe it’s a generational issue. Law students: Be sure to take the test. Rumor has it that several Constitutional Law professors (only at the higher-ranked schools) intend to use it on their upcoming Spring final exams.
Former student George Carder sent along this tale of caution about technology and client relations:
I was preparing a will for an 87-year-old woman. She and her 67-year-old daughter were meeting with me. I was looking at her previous will, which said she was to be “interned.”
I was thinking that didn’t look right and that the correct word was “interred.” So I pulled out my phone, hit Google and touched the mic button. When I said “interred,” unfortunately, Google didn’t hear the “in” part.
Can you imagine my embarrassment when my phone shouted out the definition of what it thought it heard?
We’ve all seen those funny texts posted on Facebook and elsewhere. Being a skeptic by nature, I assume most of them are made up … but maybe not.
From a good friend in South Florida we get this hilarious text exchange between her and her mom about the historic recent reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba after a fifty-four year gap.
It makes me laugh every time I read it. Lest you think my friend’s mom is not very smart, the contrary is true. She’s a highly educated professional … but obviously not a big follower of politics or world relations.
Meanwhile, I’ve suggested to my friend that she clean up her language when talking to her mother.
Adding to the ongoing battle for supremacy between the two dominant professions–law and medicine–Lawhaha.com seeks your input as to who does the best song parodies, law students or medical students? Many examples of each populate YouTube, so I just picked the two with the most views.
They’re both impressive and hilarious in my view, but I give the nod to the med students in this particular Fight Club Doctor-Lawyer Parody Video Match-Up.
Law Students (Law School parody of Payphone by Maroon 5)
Medical Students (I Don’t Know parody of Let it Go from Frozen)
I argued in a law review article that doctors and lawyers should learn to work together out of self-interest. They need each other. Public esteem in all professions is on the decline. Lawyers and doctors shouldn’t contribute to it by bashing each other. And both groups are already stressed out enough. Studies show members of both professions suffer high depression, substance abuse and even suicide rates. The stress starts early, as you can see in both of these videos. Indeed, it’s arguably the main theme of both.
Great job by both groups in creating these fun stress relievers for others. Long live Medico-Legal humor (new category I just made up)!
Believe it or not, lawyers like to rock. You’d be surprised by the number of lawyer musicians. Here’s a psychedelic nugget from the sixties as performed by my cover band, The Rants. Believe it or not, our band plays for tens of dollars in a single night.
So I’m taking a pleasant walk along a Florida beachfront park and encounter this sign warning that it is a crime, punishable by up to one year in prison, to abandon cats in the park. I’m thinking, “That’s weird.”
Then I get to a second sign warning it is unlawful to feed or abandon cats or other animals. Unlawful to feed a cat? Wait a minute.
At this point, I’m thinking, “Aren’t we engaging in some serious overkill on the cat issue?”
But then I come to a third sign and go, “Uh-oh.” Did Tuggers run away to join the other cats?
Poor Tuggers. Hope he is found. In the meantime, if you are at the beach and come across an Orange Domestic Shorthair sunbathing or shell collecting, be felonious (or it is feline-ious) and feed the poor thing.
Meanwhile, anyone who would abandon a cat deserves a bad fate.
It’s the season to reprise those two holiday favorites from the Harmless Error vault:
Santa Suit — The children of the world file a class action lawsuit seeking redress for perceived grievances against the man in the red suit. (Caroline Kennedy selected this column for inclusion in her A Family Christmas anthology.)
Santa Strikes Back — Turns out the jolly one has his own issues about his Christmas job. Mightily ticked off, he files his own lawsuit.
Thanks to legal humorist extraordinaire Randy Maniloff for a nice shout-out to Lawhaha.com as part of his recent article exploring cartoon accident clichés that found their way to the courthouse.
Exploding cigars, falling anvils, you name it. Turns out the experiences of Wile E. Coyote and Tom and Jerry also happen to ordinary people, and Randy cites the cases to prove it.
That’s one of the things we most appreciate about him. Like Lawhaha.com (and unlike so many purveyors of legal humor), Randy doesn’t circulate undocumented anecdotes that may or may not have really happened. He researches and provides citations to everything.
A fleeing bank robber made the mistake of seeking refuge in his 94-year-old great-grandmother’s home with pursuers hot on his trail. When the police arrived, the only ones present were the accused and great-grandma. At trial, the defendant, Mr. Jones, elected to represent himself, never a good idea.
The prosecution called his great-grandma as a witness. To say she wasn’t happy about the proceedings and, in particular, the conduct of her great-grandson would understate her disenchantment with sitting in the witness box.
We’ll let her explain. Here’s the text of page 209 of the trial transcript shown in the photo, where she concludes her testimony:
THE WITNESS: He’s a sick ass, that’s what he is.
THE COURT: The record will reflect that she’s identified Mr. Jones.
THE WITNESS: Have me dragging out in the cold in the wintertime and everything and shit.
THE COURT: Mr. Jones, did you have any questions?
DEFENDANT JONES (the great-grandson): No.
THE COURT: All right. You may step down.
THE WITNESS: And since when did he get a law degree? Dumbass.
THE BAILIFF: Ma’am, you’re finished, okay?
THE WITNESS: Damn right. Get the hell out of here and get back home.
THE BAILIFF: Okay, you don’t need to say anything else, okay?
Law degree or not, give the great-grandson credit for the smart strategy decision not to cross-examine. Small wonder the prosecutor described the great-grandmother as “one of the most entertaining witnesses this writer has ever encountered” in the state’s appellate brief.
— Trial Transcript, State of Ohio v. Jones, Case No. 2014CA-00051, at 209 (Ohio 5th Ct. App.). Thanks to Laura Ozak.
Slipping on a banana peel is, of course, a classic clichéd accident depicted in cartoons. As my 1Ls get ready to tackle the famous trilogy of banana peel slip and fall cases in the Prosser, Wade & Schwartz Torts casebook next week, the nagging question that lingers is: do people really slip on banana peels?
A previous post discussed this issue, but check this out. It’s a 1927 Tennessee death certificate for a 74-year-old hospitalized man. A bit hard to read, but the highlighted note written across the top and going down the right side says:
Inquiry at Hospital: They state that patient slipped on banana peeling and fell shortly before death.
One doesn’t have to look far to find criticism of law professors for spending such a large portion of their time writing long, heavily foonoted, sleep-inducing law review articles. We even poke fun at ourselves for it, Exhibit A being The World’s Greatest Law Review Article.
But law review articles can and do have an impact. Have to share the good news that my proposal for a statutory presumption of elder financial exploitation in my recent Hastings Law Journal article, Preying on the Graying: A Statutory Presumption to Prosecute Elder Financial Exploitation, was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott on June 20. The proposal passed unanimously through every legislative committee and both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, showing that at least some bipartisan issues still exist.
The article arose from a cruel financial exploitation incident involving our remarkable dad shortly before he passed away last year. He’s shown here during WWII.
On October 1, 2014, when the law takes effect, prosecutors in Florida will have several more tools at their disposal. In addition to my presumption statute, the new law (HB 409/Offenses Against Vulnerable Persons) creates the nation’s only elder hearsay exception and eliminates the requirement of proving deception or intimidation in elder exploitation cases.
Elder financial exploitation is a problem of enormous scope and growing rapidly as baby boomers age. The crimes are notoriously underreported and under-prosecuted, often due to the same factors that make older adults vulnerable to exploitation in the first place. If you care about this issue and know a legislator in your state, contact them and let them know they can help by supporting legislation similar to Florida’s.
In the meantime, watch after your own elders. Don’t make the mistake of assuming they are immune to exploitation. We would have voted our father to be the World’s Most Unlikely Victim.
If you’re contemplating or applying to law school, boost your ability to maximize success with the highest-rated law school prep book, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School. Read the Amazon Customer Reviews.
Friend of Lawhaha.com and legal cartoonist Mark Purdy has penned a cartoon raising an intriguing question that has long puzzled lawyers and rock music lovers alike. It’s purdy funny (ouch, sorry). So what’s your answer, are you “Pro Bono” or “No Bono”?
Pro bono legal work are services rendered by lawyers without charge to low income clients or otherwise in furtherance of the public good. (Pro bono comes from the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means “for the public good.”)
Lawyers get a bad rap, but most non-lawyers probably do not realize that lawyers donate literally millions of hours of free legal services annually in the United States. Name another profession whose members donate so much of their time. (Click here for a comprehensive 2008 study of pro bono service conducted by the American Bar Association.)
Insurance expert, stand-up comic, and friend of Lawhaha.com, Randy Maniloff, penned an interesting article in his latest issue of Coverage Opinions about whether people who get frightened at Halloween haunted houses, with resulting injury, can sue.
On any other evening, presenting a frightening or threatening visage might be a violation of a general duty not to scare others. But on Halloween at trick-or-treat time, that duty is modified. Our society encourages children to transform themselves into witches, demons, and ghosts, and play a game of threatening neighbors into giving them candy.” Bouton v. Allstate Ins. Co., 491 So. 2d 56 (La. Ct. App. 1986) (also noting that the Louisiana legislature has recognized Halloween as a special occasion by exempting it from the statute which prohibits the wearing of masks in public places).
But does this “Halloween rule” apply to haunted houses? All sorts of duties are imposed on property owners to maintain a safe premises. Do these same rules apply when the premises are advertised as having, as their only purpose, to scare visitors? Indeed, many visitors will leave a haunted house disappointed if they were not frightened while there. That being the case, can the visitor of a haunted house now turn around and sue for injuries sustained in the process of getting what he asked (and paid) for?
His research turned up five reported judicial decisions in which visitors of haunted houses sought recovery for injuries “sustained on account of being scared.” Notably, the plaintiffs lost every case based on assumption of the risk analysis and the social utility of keeping haunted houses scary and darkly lit. In one case, a startled plaintiff in a pitch-dark house turned to run and ran smack into a brick wall.
Hate to be a party-pooper, but I think there’s a duty to act reasonably to prevent highly foreseeable injuries at premises open to the public. The goal of a haunted house is to terrify, the expected result is that customers will be terrified, and the instinctive response to terror is to run. But no one can see! Give them helmets, maybe even put flashlights on them, or scare them outside where they can run into the cushy-walls of cornfield mazes.
“Eerily,” as Randy notes, all five cases are from Louisiana.
A student from my very first Torts course a million years ago sent me this brilliant flow chart for the tort of nuisance, which comprises substantial and unreasonable interferences with the use and enjoyment of one’s property. The most interesting thing about it is that it actually summarizes the law pretty well, assuming one has dropped acid before studying it. Credit on the chart attributes this work of art to one Margaret Hagen. Well done!
A 1L sent me this “Torts Illustrated” image, sort of a grown-up version of Garrett v. Daily, a famous case that all law students study in which a five-year-old was sued for pulling a chair out from under an elderly woman. If anyone knows the original source, please send it along so we can give proper credit.
In the meantime, one can only imagine what the swimsuit issue would look like.
Here’s a trivia question for lawyers and law students.
Question: What was the very first opinion issued in the U.S. Reports case reporter; that is, the opinion claiming that coveted number one slot of “1 U.S. 1” as a citation?
Answer: Well, it’s a bit of a letdown. You’d think they’d want to start with a bang, something Marbury-esque. But no, here’s the first case in the U.S. Reports:
The Lessee of Hyam and others
April Term, 1759.
1 U.S. 1, 1 Dall. 1, 1759 WL 20 (Pa.), 1 L.Ed. 11
Copy of a Deed inrolled in the King’s Bench in England, proved before the Lord Mayor of London to be a true one; allowed to be given in Evidence to a Jury to support a Title to Lands in this Province.*
Insurance law expert and humorist in his own right, Randy Maniloff, did a nice interview with me in the latest issue of Coverage Opinions, his bi-weekly electronic newsletter reporting and commenting on new court decisions addressing insurance coverage disputes.
He asked a lot of great questions covering everything from the state of product warnings the state of legal education.
Someone sent a message in response to the Warning: Playing Stairway to Heaven is Prohibited post asking if I was making up the part about playing in Memphis rock cover bands. It’s true. As dubious as the proposition sounds, law professors can actually rock (or at least we think we can).
Below is a sample from our most recently disbanded band, The Vynals, having fun playing surf music at a festival outside of Memphis (a medley of Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys and Wipeout by the Safaris). Wait, it gets even more incredulous. Now we’re forming The World’s Oldest Punk Band. (Similar to The World’s Greatest Law Review Article, but with fewer footnotes.)
A new book, Tales from the Courtroom, by English lawyer Brian Harris offers an interesting mix of historical, mysterious and humorous legal vignettes, mostly of UK origin, but also including a few American tales.
The book includes a fair share of dark legal humor, such as the tale of a Scottish judge named Kames who in 1780 found himself trying Matthew Hay, his former chess partner, for murder. When the verdict of guilty was returned, Kames chillingly remarked, “That’s checkmate to you, Matthew!” (Harris points out that the statement must be read in a Scottish accent for full effect.)
One of the best historical tales involves F.E. Smith’s (Lord Birkenhead) tiff with a sanctimonious judge:
F.E. had been briefed for a tramway company which had been sued for damages for injuries to a boy who had been run over. The judge was deeply moved. ‘Poor boy, poor boy’, he said. ‘Blind. Put him on a chair so that the jury can see him.’
F.E. said coldly: ‘Perhaps your honour would like to have the boy passed round the jury box.’
‘That is a most improper remark’, said Judge Willis angrily.
‘It was provoked’, said F.E., ‘by a most improper suggestion.’ There was a heavy pause, and the judge continued, ‘Mr. Smith, have you ever heard of a saying by Bacon—the great Bacon—that youth and discretion are ill-wed companions?’
‘Indeed I have, your Honour; and has your Honour ever heard of a saying by Bacon—the great Bacon—that a much talking judge is like an ill-tuned cymbal?’
The judge replied furiously, “You are extremely offensive, young man’; and F.E. added to his previous lapses by saying: ‘As a matter of fact we both are; the only difference between us is that I’m trying to be and you can’t help it.’
For funny and clever legally related cartoons, there is no beating Stu Rees and wife Maddy Dodson. But we always need more legal humor. Here’s a new sample from aspiring cartoonist, legal and otherwise, Mark Purdy. What do you think?
Insurance law expert Randy Maniloff shows that insurance law doesn’t have to be dry. His insurance coverage newsletter Coverage Opinions takes a light-hearted look at insurance, recently celebrating Valentine’s Day with a funny parody of a Paul Simon classic: “50 Ways To Leave No Cover,” an inventory of the many ways insurance companies manage to deny coverage. Here’s a taste:
There must be fifty ways
To leave no cover
Your notice was late Kate
And then you didn’t cooperate
That’s not an occurrence Terrence
It’s impaired property Lee
You furnished alcohol Paul
You intended that Matt
We’re just excess Bess
We reserved on Buss Gus
Your claim relates back Jack …
Randy’s a funny guy. Check him out.
Here’s my take on insurance coverage: Harmless Error, Insurance Deterrence, A.B.A. Journal, Mar. 2001. Still funny after all these years (Paul Simon joke).
A first-year law student in Miami isn’t rushing out to buy these “career shoes.” As she explained in an email:
I am a member of a designer overstock/discount (and probably liquidation) club and was just browsing through today’s sales when I saw a heading that said “CAREER SHOES.” I clicked on it thinking I might find a pair of designer shoes suitable for pairing with a suit.
This photo shows their idea of career shoes for the modern woman. I do love a good pair of heels, but when I think of “career shoes,” I definitely don’t picture these styles … What’s the career they had in mind when they wrote the heading for this sale? Hooker?
A former student from Golden Gate law school who lives and practices in Hawaii sent this picture of a true torts-loving person’s car.
We will engage in outrageous speculation that it belongs to a plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyer. If you think about it, who else would get a “TORTS” license plate? Maybe geeky law professors with nicknames like Tortman or pattisiers who can’t spell, but really no one else. Insurance defense lawyers wouldn’t do it because it would violate the industry position that torts do not actually exist.
You thought “Risk” was a good game? Spotting risk is even more fun, and definitely more educational. As law students learn in Torts, the world is a dangerous place where the worst that can happen often does.
My 1Ls at the University of Memphis have been participating in a “Spot the Tort” Contest. Check out their photo entries. This is just one sample of the “accidents waiting to happen” they’ve documented in and around Memphis.
Are you in law school? Do you consider yourself to be a dedicated law student? Not sure? Measure yourself on McClurg’s simple 0-100 scale, with 0 being “I’m not totally thrilled with Judge Learned Hand” and 100 being “I aspire to be like the guy in this picture.”
Years ago, a student of mine at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law took a trip, to Philadelphia, I think. He struck up a conversation with a tattoo artist in a bar. When the artist learned he was in law school, she asked, “Have you ever heard of a judge named Learned Hand?” “Of course!” the student replied. All law students know and remember Judge Learned Hand.
The artist said the young man above came into her tattoo parlor with the accompanying picture of Judge Hand (the picture is from the famous Prosser, Wade & Schwartz Torts casebook used at 124 law schools) and asked to have Judge Hand, wearing a jester cap, tattooed on his arm. As proof, she followed up and sent this photograph to my student, who entrusted it to me.
For non-legals, Judge Hand was a famous judge who in a famous case–U.S. v. Carroll Towing–set forth a famous algebraic economic cost-benefit formula for determining whether injury-causing conduct was reasonable or unreasonable. If reasonable, the defendant is off the hook. If unreasonable, the defendant is liable for negligence and must pay damages. The formula is B < P x L. B stands for the burden of avoiding a risk of harm, P is the probability that the risk will actually cause harm, and L stands for the severity of the harm if it occurs. The formula states that if the burden of avoiding the harm is less than the probability of the harm occurring multiplied by the severity of the potential harm, the conduct is unreasonable (i.e., negligent). Conversely, if the burden of avoiding the risk outweighs the probability times the severity of harm, the conduct is reasonable (i.e., non-negligent).
The back of the picture is stamped with “Tattoo & Photo by Sherry Sears, Creative Images, Des Moines, IA.” So if you want to impress your professors and university’s counseling department, book a ticket to Des Moines.
Good news for legally inclined zombie lovers. Joshua Warren has compiled a casebook that “include[s] case opinions from the over 300 U.S. Federal Court opinions with the word “zombie” (and “zombies”, “zombi”, “zombis”, “zombified”, “zombism”, etc..).” These include cases from the zombified Supreme Court (available as postcards, along with zombie law teeshirts and zombie flashdrives).
Warren explains that this is a “serious” project. From his promotional website:
The “zombie” in federal courts are very interesting. Aside from the intellectual property cases that provide some reflection on modern zombie fiction, there are also ample metaphoric uses of the word in these judicial writings. Judges have referred to “zombie precedents” and “zombie litigation”. There are zombie corporations, zombie criminals, a significant number are social security cases in which people describe themselves in zombie condition and even a recent mentions of cybernetic zombies.
Unlike other works of zombie academia, the zombies in this book are all real. Most zombie scholarship uses hypothetical zombies as tropes to create entertaining and extreme fact patterns that can be used to explain complex subject matters. This has been used effectively for neuroscience (Schlozman, Voytek), international policy analysis (Drezner), public health (Center for Disease Control), geography (Kickstarter project: Zombie-Based Learning), survival skills (Brooks) amongst other subjects (See Zombie Research Society) including also academics who focus on the fictional character itself (Mogk, Brooks).
This Zombie Law book is different because it does not use zombies as hypotheticals to teach law. It is not conjecture about what zombies are or might be. This book is a compendium of real usages of the actual word in American jurisprudence. This book is a collection of real legal cases that literally include “zombies” (or similar word) in US Federal Court opinions..
The basic outline of the book will separate most cases into issues of corporations, medications, criminals and, of course intellectual property. Major sections will be devoted to Social Security (disability) law, corporate fraud and issues of criminal intent. There are noteworthy cases referring to post traumatic stress disorder and many recent Social Security cases regarding of fibromyalgia. The intellectual property cases are about popular zombie fiction and also so-called “vicious zombi” patents. In general, the idea of zombies in a mall is public domain for copyright but particular forms of zombie products are protected by trademark.
Frequently there is a sort of double meaning in the word. In Social Security cases, the word zombie is found as a symptom of pain, depression and anxiety but also the side effect of medications prescribed for those same symptoms. In criminal law, zombie appear in victim’s description of their assailant’s behavior but also as defense argument against criminal intent. For corporations the ironic question of corporate-personhood begs the question, ‘what is a person?’, which is often the implied question of zombie studies.
For all you law professors and other legal authors who thought there was no niche left to write about, Warren shows you just have to think outside of the box, in this case, the ones buried six feet under.
Legal research shows no Lannister has ever filed for bankruptcy.
Good legal news if you’re a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones series, adapted from George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. The series centers around the struggles of several noble families, including the Lannisters, whose unoffical motto is that “A Lannister always pays his debts.”
Now comes breaking news out of South Florida. A former student at the Florida International College of Law, a really smart one named Michael Hirschkowitz, has, through painstaking legal research, confirmed the apparent truth of the Lannister motto.
He reports: “There are 0 cases in the United States in which any individual or organization named ‘Lannister’ has undergone Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is strong evidence that a Lannister does, in fact, ‘always pay his debts.'”
The start of another academic year is closing in quickly. If you’re going to be a new law student, you’re not the only one who needs to get ready for a wild ride.
Dozens of books have been written to prepare students for law school, but The “Companion Text” to Law School is the only book ever written to prepare the families and friends of law students for what to expect and how to deal with it.
Thanks to Professor Laura Heymann, College of William & Mary-Marshall-Wythe School of Law, for sending along her funny parody of intellectual property law in the form of a cease and desist letter sent from one neighbor to another complaining about infringement of the offended neighbor’s parenting directive to “Eat your frisee salad.”
Facebook’s computer algorithms do an amazing–if scary–job of connecting the dots by ferreting out people relevant to one’s life and recommending them as friends. A Washington man and his wife, er, wives, recently learned there are no degrees of separation in a Facebook-dominated world.
The man’s current wife found out he was still married to someone else when she clicked on a Facebook friend suggestion and saw a picture of her husband at his wedding to her new potential Facebook buddy. This led to felony bigamy charges against the husband. Wild stuff.
(Justia had the story, but the link is now broken.)
Thanks to French artist, Cassou, for introducing herself to Lawhaha.com and sending along a sample of one of her paintings.
She said the world of justice inspired her to “create a judicial series of humorous paintings with tender irony” that she exhibits in courthouses throughout Europe, including, recently, in Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Breda, Middelburg, and Maastricht. This year her work will be displayed at courthouses of The Hague and in Amsterdam.
The pictured painting is called “le juge, un singe?” (the judge, a monkey?). She explains it this way: “The ape has the reputation of being a caricature of human being, a buffoon. The painting expresses the fear of a citizen that the judge be airy, unconcerned, carefree, thoughtless. But, after all, the ape symbolises wisdom and agility as well.”
She adds that she is always looking for new hospitable courthouses and would be delighted to exhibit her work in America. So if you’re a judge or otherwise work in a courthouse that might be interested in exhibiting her art, as we say in the South, give her a holler.
As every lawyer and law student knows, law school is an adventure for the entire family. It’s a life-changing experience that affects everyone involved.
Dozens of books have been written to prepare students for law school, but what about all those other suffering souls–the relatives and friends who support and struggle right alongside the student on their wild and crazy journey toward a Juris Doctor degree? Who’s preparing them?
Named one of Amazon Editors’ Favorite Books of 2014.
The “Companion Text” to Law School is designed to equip loved ones of law students—parents, partners, and other friends and relatives—with all the information and tools needed to understand both law school and their stressed out, rapidly transforming student.
• Written by an award-winning professor with wide experience teaching thousands of law students at six law schools.
• Explains all the essentials of legal education, including the first-year curriculum, the Socratic Method of teaching, and the dreaded single-exam format.
• Explores the psyches of law students, including what they love to talk about, things you should never say to them, their sources of stress, and how law school can change their personalities.
• Addresses the impact of law school on outside relationships—and vice versa—and gives tips for navigating relationships with law students.
• Includes dozens of comments, anecdotes, and insights from real law students and their loved ones.
• Extras include a chapter on the types of jobs available to new law graduates, fun “legal” questions you can use to stump your student, a sample case, and a glossary.
• Backed up throughout by academic research.
• Written in a lively, reader-friendly voice, bolstered by humor.
Nathan Koppel of the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting front-page article about judges who use humor in their opinions, quoting McClurg and citing to Lawhaha.com.
Koppel explored the ongoing debate of whether and to what extent judges should use their written products as avenues for amusement.
What do you think?
Meanwhile, in the article, U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, a Lawhaha.com Hall of Famer, opined that Canadian judges are too boring and staid. Koppel quoted Kozinski saying: “I like my Canadian colleagues, but, boy, when it comes to reading their opinions, it’s like wading through molasses.”
But that’s not always true. Koppel cited one example of Canadian judicial humor and we have a couple other good ones here and here.
The National Jurist, the Magazine for Law Students, interviewed McClurg for an article in the September 2011 issue called The First Year: One Wild Ride, offering tips and insights about that crazy first year of law school. Check it out here.
It’s publish or perish in the law professor business, and most of that publishing occurs in law review articles.
Law professors strive mightily to make their law review articles stand out by coming up with clever titles for them. The trick is coming up with a title that is attention-getting, but also descriptive. This, of course, requires use of the ubiquitous colon, which appears in the vast majority of law review titles. Some law professors look down on colons in law review titles (yes, this is part of the important stuff we actually spend time thinking and talking about) and eschew them, but the result is often a title that doesn’t give a clue what the article is about.
Here’s a top candidate for the best law review article title:
Erik S. Jaffe, “She’s Got Bette Davis[‘s] Eyes”: Assessing the Nonconsensual Removal of Cadaver Organs Under the Takings and Due Process Clauses, 90 Columbia Law Review 528 (1990).
Oldsters will recall that “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes” was a smash hit for Kim Carnes in 1981. Originally written by Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss in 1974, Carnes took the song to number one on the Billboard charts where it held the top spot for nine weeks.
— Erik S. Jaffe, “She’s Got Bette Davis[‘s] Eyes”: Assessing the Nonconsensual Removal of Cadaver Organs Under the Takings and Due Process Clauses, 90 Columbia Law Review 528 (1990)
Justice Ruth Baeder Ginsburg – Not that funny according to study.
Boston University Law Professor Jay D. Wexler conducted a study of the relative funniness of U.S. Supreme Court Justices. His results were published in The Green Bag and reported in the New York Times.
Wexler’s methodology was to count and tabulate the insertions of “[Laughter]” in transcripts of oral arguments during the 2004 term, when argument transcripts began including the Justices’ names. The results include the conclusion that Justice Antonin Scalia is the Chief Comedian on the High Court, nineteen times funnier than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Scalia, the study showed, is good for at least one laugh per oral argument. On the other hand, Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely speaks during oral arguments, received no laughs.
As the New York Times article pointed out, the baseline for laughter in the solemn Supreme Court is fairly low. It’s not likely the same comments would generate guffaws on Comedy Central.
Here are some Supreme Court rib-ticklers quoted in the New York Times article:
[After a lightbulb exploded in the courtroom:]”It’s a trick they play on new chief justices all the time,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who joined the court that month, said of the explosion.
“Happy Halloween,” Justice Scalia retorted.
And then, the kicker. “We’re even more in the dark now than before,” Chief Justice Roberts said.
On the other hand, in a January argument in a statute-of-limitations case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy made an amusing observation about the absurdity of modern life.
“Recently I lost my luggage,” Justice Kennedy said. “I had to go to the lost and found at the airline, and the lady said has my plane landed yet.”
That’s gold. Let’s see a sitcom based on the madcap lives of U.S. Supreme Court Justices.
— Adam Liptak, So, Guy Walks Up to the Bar, and Scalia Says …, N.Y. Times, Dec. 31, 2005.
Cardozo wrote the famous majority opinion in Palsgraf.
Several lawhaha visitors sent in Mark Fass’s article in the New York Law Journal about an alleged curse on the family of Helen Palsgraf, the most famous torts plaintiff in history. Every lawyer remembers Mrs. P from law school. To test this theory, visit an elderly, dying lawyer in a coma and shout “Palsgraf!” Immediately, he will recite: “A man carrying a box wrapped in newspaper boarded a train at the Long Island Railroad Station … cough, cough … ack.”
The box contained fireworks. When it was dislodged by employees of the Long Island Railroad trying to help the man on the train, the fireworks exploded, allegedly knocking a scale onto Mrs. P. Mrs. P’s saga led to the legendary, and incredibly confusing, opinions by Judge Benjamin Cardozo (that’s Cardozo in the picture–handsome fellow he was) and Judge William Andrews studied by students year in and year out at law schools great and small.
Now Fass reports that Mrs. P’s accident began a curse on the Palsgraf family, at least that’s what some of her descendants believe. One descendant fell off a ladder in 1965 and sued the manufacturer, but never made it to trial because the ladder was stolen. Another lost her thumb when a ping-pong table collapsed. A lawsuit led to a small settlement. Another descendent tripped while jogging over a broken curb, but was discouraged by lawyers from filing suit.
The most intriguing Palsfraf mishap reported by Fass involves a descendant who lost control of his truck on an icy hill in 1968. The truck slid towards the edge of cliff. Guess what saved the life of Mrs. P’s closest living relative? The truck’s wheels got caught on a track of … you guessed it, the Long Island Railroad. (Cue Twilight Zone theme.)
— Mark Fass, Palsgraf Railroad Injury Proximate Cause of Family Curse?, New York Law Journal, Dec. 10, 2004.
As a Torts prof, I loved this tidbit sent in by Elise Hendrick. Good old Mrs. Palsgraf. You can try, but you can’t keep her down.
Elise was listening to oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Exxon Co. USA v. Sofec, 116 S.Ct. 1813 (1996), and came across the following exchange between George Playdon, counsel for Sofec, and Justice Scalia. The two were engaged in a colloquy about the maritime supervening cause doctrine:
Scalia: I’m not sure that you need a “doctrine of supervening cause.” Is a doctrine of supervening cause anything other than Palsgraf? When you say, you know, that the negligence … the causality … had long since terminated. Once you say you’re out of the scope of the risk, what do you need a doctrine of supervening cause for? And isn’t that basically your case?
Playdon (chuckling): I smile—I never envisioned thirty years ago that I’d have the opportunity …
Scalia: Of arguing Palsgraf!
Playdon (stammering, laughing): Obviously, Palsgraf is a foreseeability doctrine, just like Hadley v. Baxendale is a foreseeability problem.
Elise speculates that this may have been the first time the implausible case of Mrs. P has been mentioned in court since Palsgraf was decided in 1928.
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. Learn more...
Funny Law School Stories
For all its terror and tedium, law school can be a hilarious place. Everyone has a funny law school story. What’s your story?