John G. Browning 2015-02-26 02:13:48
Laugh Out Loud There’s no denying that many of the strange testimonies, incredible vignettes, and other absurdities that take place in our courtrooms every day often provide us with a little comic relief. As the Texas Bar Journal continues its search for comedic content from readers, it’s time for a little reminder that the legal system is chock-full of the funniest and most bizarre stories one can imagine. I can’t possibly make this stuff up, and thanks to what happens every day in courthouses throughout the world, I don’t have to. Truth in Advertising Criminal suspects aren’t always known for their keen fashion sense—just Google “T-shirts Worn in Mug Shots,” and you’ll see what I mean. But not everyone’s sartorial style can lead police to them in the first place. That particular distinction goes to John Balmer of Pasco County, Florida. According to a recent arrest report from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Balmer was wearing a shirt that read “Who Needs Drugs? No, Seriously, I Have Drugs” when a police officer walked past him.1 Either the shirt or Balmer’s attempts to ditch a bag later found to contain marijuana and methamphetamine drew that officer’s attention. Balmer is now facing criminal charges; who says clothes don’t make the man? I Guess Employee of the Month Is off the Table Remember the cult classic movie Office Space, in which an employee responds to an admonition about missing work with the epic riposte, “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob”? Well, how about an employee who doesn’t show up to work for, say, 25 years? That was the case recently in India, where civil servant A.K. Verma—an executive electrical engineer with the country’s Central Public Works Department—finally was fired after not showing up to work since December 1990.2 An inquiry began in September 1992, only to be delayed, and formal charges weren’t brought until 2005. It took until August 2007 for the then-minister of urban development to accept the report from the inquiry board, but no action was taken until January 2015, when the current minister of urban development finally fired Verma. Hey, it’s been a quarter of a century— maybe you should give him a gold watch along with that pink slip. Who’s Pulling the Strings? From time to time, some people need to be reminded of the obvious, whether it’s the fact that Murphy Brown is a fictional character, or the fact that a ventriloquist’s dummy is, well, not really talking. Add South African musician Steve Hofmeyr to that list of those in need of a reality check. Hofmeyr was upset by a series of tweets accusing him of racism that came from the Twitter account of Chester Missing, the puppet of Johannesburg comedian and ventriloquist Conrad Koch. Hofmeyr was so upset, in fact, that he went to court and obtained a protective order banning Koch and his dummy from making any statements about him in public or on social media.3 Koch, who is known for his controversial political commentary, declined to comment “out of respect for court processes.” But that doesn’t answer the bigger question—do Hofmeyr and the judge who signed this gag order realize that puppets don’t actually talk? The Bylaws Also Have a “No Geeks” Clause The Moder family of Bradenton, Florida, likes the long-running British sci-fi- television series Dr. Who. So much so, in fact, that they built a life-size replica of the Dr. Who TARDIS (a time travel device that resembles an old-fashioned English phone booth) and placed it in their driveway. Previously, the Moders had brought their replica to sci-fi conventions and had even gotten married in front of it. Although moving it onto the driveway didn’t anger alien invaders, it did run afoul of their subdivision’s homeowners association.4 The Moders received notice of legal action from the HOA, which gave them 15 days to remove the offending structure. Ultimately, they elected to relocate the time machine to their backyard. Dr. Who fans everywhere, not to mention fans of time travel in general, can sleep easily now. Notes 1. David Moye, “‘I have drugs’ T-shirt worn by marijuana and methamphetamine suspect,” The Huffington Post (1/6/2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/06/johnbalmer-drugs-t-shirt_n_6425686.html. 2. Antonia Molloy, “Indian civil servant sacked after failing to turn up to work for 25 years,” The Independent (1/8/2015) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/indian-civil-servant-sacked-after-failing-to-turn-up-to-work-for-25-years- 9965488.html. 3. Lynsey Chutel, “South African ventriloquist challenging gag order on his puppet,” Associated Press (11/10/2014) http://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/south-africanventriloquist- challenging-gag-order-on-his-puppet-1.2094816. 4. Daniel Taylor, “Fla. HOA orders ‘Dr. Who’ TARDIS replica off driveway” FindLaw (1/9/2015) http://blogs.findlaw.com/legalgrounds/2015/01/fla-hoa-orders-dr-whotardis- replica-off-driveway.html. JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.
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