It is always interesting when a high court puts commentary or other unexpected language into their published opinions. Here is a very recent statement from the Arkansas Supreme Court, as it gives a bit of a tongue lashing to the lower appellate court:
It is unfortunate that this case was certified to our court in its current state. ‘We note that with twelve judges, twenty-four law clerks, and four staff attorneys, that the court of appeals has sufficient resources to spot such deficiencies. In the future, we expect the court of appeals to ensure that the briefs comply with our rules prior to certifying a case to this court.
Here are some other classics. One justice of the Court of Appeals in Michigan writes opinions in rhyme:
We thought that we would never see A suit to compensate a tree. A suit whose claim in tort is prest Upon a mangled tree’s behest; A tree whose battered trunk was prest Against a Chevy’s crumpled crest; A tree that faces each new day With bark and limb in disarray; A tree that may forever bear A lasting need for tender care. Flora lovers though we three, We must uphold the court’s decree.
Source: Fisher v. Lowe, 333 N.W.2d 67
If you are old enough to remember the annoyingly catchy song, “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, you may have heard that Mattel Toys sued the band for a trademark infringement. The lawsuit was public, noisy, and nasty. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit before trial, and Mattel appealed.
As the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded its ruling, it took some time to address the contentious litigation with the following sage advice:
The parties are advised to chill.
And finally, when I was a law clerk in the late 1990s, I ran across this case analyzing the difference between negligent and intentional acts. This holding will forever be etched into my mind.
The facts are worth noting. Maestas and Castro were occasional drinking buddies who were acquainted through work and softball team activities. On the night of December 5, 1982, they were drinking and socializing in a bar. The evening’s events did not remain subdued and tranquil, however. Epithets were exchanged and fisticuffs ensued. Maestas and Castro were asked to leave the bar premises. Round two took place in the parking lot. Though each claimed the other was the initial aggressor, Maestas lost; his nose and ears were bitten off.
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On May 3, 1984, Maestas filed a civil complaint against Castro in the state district court (CV No. 5456). The complaint sought damages from Castro due to negligence! One is puzzled by the allegation since at least three bites were required to achieve the damage inflicted [. Arguably such activity could be described as gross negligence, but I think the third bite pretty clearly elevates the activity to an intentional tort, however mindless it might seem.
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West American Insurance Company is the issuer of a homeowner’s policy to Castro which protects the homeowner from lawsuits based on the negligent conduct of the policy holder. Thus, mirabile dictu, we now see why Maestas ascribes the loss of his nose and ears to Castro’s failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. Of course, it cannot be gainsaid that a reasonably prudent person would eschew similar circumstances. Thus, the law’s time-honored test of reasonable prudence is inapplicable to the facts presented. After the fashion of William of Occam preference should be given to a test of known quantities: three bites do not a negligence case make.
Who says appellate court justices are dull?