The Hard Life and Times of Nutkin the Squirrel

nutkin the squirrel

"Am looking for a good lawyer. Can pay in acorns. Hit me up."

Appellate Judge Joseph Hudock of the Superior Court of Pennsylania treated us to a classic in a case involving a poor little persecuted squirrel named Nutkin.

For an alleged questionable motive (explained in the opinion), the state decided to prosecute Nutkin’s owner for keeping the squirrel as a family pet in violation of Pennsylvania wildlife laws. The good news is that Nutkin and the owner won. The better news is Judge Hudock’s opinion. This one is worth reading in full. Here are the opening paragraphs to give you a taste:

1. This appeal revolves around the life and times of Nutkin the squirrel.

2. Nutkin’s early life was spent in the state of nature ferrae naturae, in the state of South Carolina, and, as far as we can tell, in a state of contentment. She apparently had plenty of nuts to eat and trees to climb, and her male friends, while not particularly handsome, did have nice personalities. Life was good.

3. Then one day tragedy struck: Nutkin fell from her tree nest!

4. But fate was kind. Nutkin was found and adopted by Appellant and her husband who, at that time, were residents of South Carolina. Appellant lovingly nursed Nutkin back to health, and Nutkin became the family pet. . . . Life was good again.

5. Nutkin’s captivity and domestication were perfectly legal in South Carolina, possibly a reflection of that state’s long tradition of hospitality to all.

6. In 1994, Appellant and her husband moved to Pennsylvania and brought Nutkin with them. Life was full of promise.

7. Dark clouds began to gather, however … [when the mean old state of Pennsylvania came into the picture and tried to take Nutkin away].

. . .

9. Nutkin would then learn the shocking truth that the cheery Pennsylvania slogan “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania” did not apply to four-legged critters like Nutkin.

If you track down the full opinion, keep an eye out for the funny analogy Judge Hudock draws between old squirrels and old appellate judges.

Commonwealth v. Gosselin, 861 A.2d 996, 997–98 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2004). Thanks to Ryan Kriger.

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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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