Pamela Buchmeyer 2016-09-27 00:36:28
The Judge’s Daughter: Batman vs. The Commissioner October means Halloween and Halloween means costumes. But how many times can we poor lawyers dress up like convicts or sharks? My personal All hallows Eve attire is a black T-shirt inscribed in Latin: Advocatus Diaboli, the Devil’s Advocate. I recall one Halloween office party where I created instant costumes simply by filling in blank name tags—Unindicted Co-conspirator for one partner, along with Beauty School Dropout, for a tall, bearded guy. Jake from State Farm was a hit as was Lounge Act, Driving School Instructor, Snake Wrangler, and Jewel Thief—you get the idea. Even judges, lawyers, and support staff can have a screaming good time. That’s what my father believed. The late great Judge Jerry L. Buchmeyer who for 28 years penned this column, a collection of legal goof-ups and gaffes. It’s an honor now for me to carry his cape. Dad’s own favorite Halloween costume? Cuddly Curmudgeon. Thank you for the new submissions and please keep them coming to firstname.lastname@example.org. This month I’ve got a trick-or-treat bag full of goodies for you. Boo! CRAZY CASE NAMES FOR GHOULS & GOBLINS Bizarrely named legal precedents are too fun, especially when they have a Halloween theme. What lawyer wouldn’t give his or her sharpened eyeteeth in order to cite one of these? Batman v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 189 F.2d 107 (5th Cir. 1951), cert. denied 342 U.S. 877 (1951). Not a Gotham-based lawsuit, this case actually comes from Ochiltree County, Texas, where a farmer named Batman sued the IRS commissioner. The farmer had tried to avoid income taxes by transferring part ownership of his farm to an illusory partnership with his 14-year-old son. Robin Hood, et al. v. U.S. Gov. Banking Industry, et. al., No. 3:12-cv-1542-EDL (N.D. Cal. filed Mar. 27, 2012). A creatively named plaintiff in an anti-racketeering class action. Presumably, the plaintiff’s lawyers wore green tights and the Merry Men were included in the et al. Terrible v. Terrible, 534 P.2d 919 (Nov. 1975). A divorce case, but of course. U.S. v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins, 520 F.3d 976 (9th Cir. Mar. 17, 2008). Approximately, but who’s counting? An admiralty case of civil forfeiture where a three-judge panel issued a real stinker— the shark tonnage in question was to be returned to its rightful owners. HUMPTY DUMPTY ATTORNEY-AT-LAW Attorney Rusty Biechlin of San Antonio has a fun new submission for us. “True story,” he promises, “I was there.” The late Paul Green, a legend among Texas medical malpractice defense counsel, was deposing an expert witness about the level of care provided to one Mr. B., an elderly patient who had several severe ailments. Q: Doctor, in your opinion, if Mr. B. had remained on dialysis and if it had not been discontinued ... would he have survived and gotten out of the hospital? The witness paused thoughtfully for what seemed to be a very long time. A: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not have put Mr. B. back together again. Q: [wisely] No further questions. THE MAN WHO TRIED TO SUE SATAN Let us unearth United States ex rel. Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, 54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D. Pa. 1971), where the plaintiff, seeking to bring a class action against the Prince of Darkness, alleged that on numerous occasions: Satan ... caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats ... placed deliberate obstacles in his path ... and caused plaintiff’s downfall. ... ... all in contradiction of his constitutional rights. First, the court doubted whether the plaintiff could establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant Satan, Lord of the Underworld. “The complaint contains no allegation of residence in this district,” [the greater Philadelphia area] and “... the plaintiff has failed to include ... instructions for the United States Marshal ... as to service of process.” Presumably somewhere beyond the gates of hell. Had the devil ever appeared in a U.S. courtroom before? The court noted, an “unofficial account” of a trial in New Hampshire, namely, “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” a 1937 short story by Stephen Vincent Benét, “... where this defendant [Satan] filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as a plaintiff. ...” The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case [the 1971 court ever so wisely opined] we are unable to determine at this time ... Lastly, as to the issue of certifying a class action against Satan, the court was forced to conclude that such a proposed class was “... so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” A gross understatement indeed. DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD And here’s a real horror from the Buchmeyer Vault—a dusty collection of hard-copy submissions received by my late father for this column. Several “reputable sources” had sent in similar examples of a common kind of rookie mistake. For evidently, when lawyers cross-examine their first expert-witness pathologist, they are apt to lose their heads. From paralegal and marine investigator Sharon Emerson of Corpus Christi: Attorney: Before you signed the death certificate, had you taken the pulse? Pathologist: No. Attorney: Did you listen to the heart? Pathologist: No. Attorney: Did you check for breathing? Pathologist: No. Attorney: So, when you signed the death certificate you weren’t sure the man was dead, were you? Pathologist: ... let me put it this way. The man’s brain was sitting in a jar on my desk. But I guess it’s possible he could be out there practicing law somewhere. THINK YOU’RE FUNNY TOO? PROVE IT! Send your humorous articles of 600 words to email@example.com. Send deposition and trial excerpts to firstname.lastname@example.org. JUDGE JERRY L. BUCHMEYER (1933-2009) grew up in Overton and served as a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas after being nominated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. His monthly legal humor column ran in the Texas Bar Journal from 1980 to 2008. PAMELA BUCHMEYER is an attorney and award-winning writer who lives in Dallas and Chicago. Her work-in-progress is a humorous murder mystery, The Judge’s Daughter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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