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Judicial Humor

Sources on the lighter side of the law, including court opinions.

Animals

Miles v. City Council of Augusta, Georgia, 710 F.2d 1542 (S.D. Ga. 1983).
Case about Blackie the Talking Cat – who said to a judge, “I love you.”

Barrett v. Barnes, 17 Kan. 266 (Kan. 1876).
Case involving a cattle drive.

Stevens v. City of Louisville, 511 S.W.2d 228 (Ky. Ct. App. 1974).
Ordinance prohibiting horseback riding not discriminatory even though it applied only to the riding of horses and not to elephants, kangaroos, and tigers.

Wiley v. Slater, 22 Barb. 506 (N.Y. Gen. Term 1856).
Opinion discusses “the code duello” among dogs.

City of Canadian v. Gutherie, 87 S.W. 2d 316 (Tex. Civ. App. 1932).
The sad story of a one-eyed bay mare, ruthlessly shot "between the bad eye and the one not so bad. In other words, in the vernacular of gangland, when Panhandle Pete's pistol popped, she petered, for which the poundkeeper paid Pete a pair of pesos." Poetry ensues:

Comes now the plaintiff, appellee,
And moves this Honorable Court to see,
That House Bill Number 304
Threw open wide the Court House door,
Of County Court in Hemphill County
Where Guthrie sought relief and bounty,
And recompense and generous meed,
For his departed wayward steed,
Cut down in all her youthful pride,
When she was taken for a ride."

The President & Satan

Searight v. New Jersey, 412 F. Supp. 413 (D.N.J. 1976).
Plaintiff believed the State of New Jersey injected him with a radium electric beam and that someone talked to him inside his brain.

Searight could have blocked the broadcast to the antenna in his brain simply by grounding it. See, for example, Ghirardi, "Modern Radio Servicing", First Edition, p. 572, ff. (Radio & Technical Publishing Co., New York, 1935). Just as delivery trucks for oil and gasoline are "grounded" against the accumulation of charges of static electricity, so on the same principle Searight might have pinned to the back of a trouser leg a short chain of paper clips so that the end would touch the ground and prevent anyone from talking to him inside his brain.

Jones v. Ault, 67 F.R.D. 124 (S.D. Ga. 1974).
Plaintiff claimed that state’s electronic surveillance system is tuned directly into his brain.

Gordon v. Secretary of State of New Jersey, 460 F. Supp. 1026 (D.N.J. 1978).
Dismissing a complaint charging that plaintiff, by reason of his illegal incarceration in jail, had been deprived of the office of the President of the United States.

Kent Norman v. Reagan, 95 F.R.D 476 (D. Or. 1982).
Plaintiff alleged that Reagan, as President of the United States, caused “civil death” without litigation, deprived him of his right to vote, and caused false arrests." He also requested an investigation of the White Line Fevers From Mars and included a poem in his complaint.

United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Pa. 1971).
Plaintiff alleged that Satan caused his misery and downfall.

See also Comical Case Names from Lowering the Bar.

Extraordinary Circumstances

United States v. Sproed, 628 F. Supp. 1234 (D. Or. 1986)..
Defendant charged with catching butterflies in a national park. The opinion quotes verse by Lewis Carroll and Wordsworth.

Zanzibar Shipping v. Railroad Locomotive Engine Number 2199, 533 F. Supp. 392 (S.D. Tex. 1982).
Case involving the collision of railroad train with ship.

Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corporation, Inc., 147 F. Supp. 2d 668 (S.D. Tex. 1991).
Pleadings were allegedly drafted in crayon on the back of gravy-stained placemats and, according to Judge Kent, the briefs contained no relevant legal authority.

Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins.

It should be noted that Judge Kent's admonitions can be viewed as an inappropriate exercise of power. For a discussion of the the problem, see Steven Lubet, Bullying from the Bench, 5 Green Bag 11 (2001).

Fenton v. Quaboag Country Club, 233 N.E.2d 216 (Mass. 1968).
Case involving a house (on a golf course) that was peppered with stray golf balls to the extent that 16 panes of glass were broken, the family dog became so distressed at the sight of golfers that the dog needed to be placed in a new home, and an average of 200-300 golf balls landed in the yard a year.

Stambovsky v. Ackley, 572 N.Y.S.2d 672 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991).
An action seeking rescission of a contract to purchase a house widely reputed to be possessed by poltergeists. The court held that a grant of equitable relief is warranted where the buyer, not a “local” and unfamiliar with the local folklore, could not readily have learned that the home he had contracted to purchase was haunted.

Bosley v. Andrews, 142 A.2d 263 (Pa. 1958).
Action for damages to wife resulting from fright and shock upon being chased by defendant’s trespassing bull.