Google Has Fun With Judgments

The Google Scholar Blog has pulled up a metric dozen “entertaining legal opinions” for our amusement — and, presumably, to remind everyone that Scholar makes many U.S. judgments available free. For example, there’s a reference to US v. Syufy Enterprises 903 F. 2d 659 (1990) which is said to contain the names of over 200 movies smuggled into the ordinary text.

(The blog helpfully provides a link to an article that marks up the titles in the judgment for you. Me, I think it’s interesting that in Syufy one of the judges is named Quackenbush, because that’s the name that Groucho Marx had originally chosen for his character of the doctor in A Day at the Races, only to change it to Hackenbush for fear of lawsuits from real Dr.s Quackenbush.)

Then there are a number of references to opinions all in verse — most of which seem to me not to scan, a requirement, I should think, of doggerel. There are recipes for chowder, harder boiled prose, and some screenwriting dialogue.

I’m certain that there are dozens of entertaining Canadian judgments in the databanks at CanLII. Funny thing is, though, that it’s hard to search for funny stuff. You more or less have to know about the gems to begin with (unless someone can show me, for instance, how to do a Boolean search for verse). So let’s have ‘em folks: as Wendy Reynolds said in a recent post, it’s the silly season: give us your cites.

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Comments

  1. Rene Joly v. Pelletier and others, [1999] O.J. No. 1728 [QL], 1999 CarswellOnt 1587, 1999 WL 33187845 (Carswell). Publicly available via wikisource at http://bit.ly/binQ61.

    A motion to strike the pleadings for being frivolous or vexatious and for disclosing no cause of action. See paragraph 11-1 for the “fundamental flaw” in the plaintiff’s position. Clever, Judge, very clever.

  2. Clever? That’s one word for what the motion judge did.

    Another word is procedurally, technically, and substantively wrong, but then she knew the decision wouldn’t be succesfully appealed.

    Why was it wrong for all of those reasons:

    1. The issue wasn’t raised by the moving parties. It was never discussed on the motion. The judge never gave Joly a chance to respond.

    2. Joly never claimed that he wasn’t human. His pleading said he was “Marsian”, not (for what it is worth) “Martian”. He also claimed to have been cloned from a Marsian DNA brought back to Earth by a secret NASA mission. There was no evidence in front of a the jduge – and couldn’t have been on that sort of motion, in any event – about the relationship between Marsian DNA and human DNA.

    3. Look deeper into the dictionary definitions of “human”. You’ll find rational person or something like that in more than one source. Joly was certainly seemed rationale. In my view – yes, I was there – his arguments were just as coherent as those of the moving parties.

    4. On the sort of motion the moving parties filed, the judge wasn’t entitled to make the decision she did. In substance, she held he couldn’t prove he was a Marsian. How could she know.

    5. One of his assertions was that there was a conspiracy by many governments and other large organizations to kill him to hide the nature of what he was. What if he’d claimed that the purpose of the conspiracy was to kill him because he was … Macedonian?

    6. Or if he’d claimed it was to kill him because he was – (pace Dan Brown fanatics and others – a descendant of Jesus Christ.

    7. So, yes, it was clever. But it was in appropriate cleverness. There were better ways to arrive at the same result.

    8. Mr. Joly did appeal. He never perfected it. The appeal was never heard.

  3. So, David, back to Simon’s original challenge, have you come across any of these entertaining judgments?

    I have to say, as a law librarian, I rarely had the “luxury” of reading judgments so don’t have any good ones to pull out of my arsenal. I look forward to what others have come across!

  4. You had to be there. It wasn’t a good day for the Ontario legal system.

    In any event, my sense of humour tends to the dry.

    South Side Woodwork v. R.C. Contracting, 1989 CanLII 3384 (AB Q.B.) at para. 51-53.

    Wilson v. Bobbie, 2006 ABQB 22 at para. 42.

    http://www.lawhaha.com/ keeps a long list.

  5. David, I agree with your assessment. In this case, I was not being complementary when I said the judge was clever. Too clever by half, perhaps. But a silly judgment, yes.

  6. Simon mentioned opinions, problems in metre – foot-dragging of a different type – and doggerel. In that vein:

    Opinions when written in verse
    May make the appellate court curse.
    The point’s not the scansion,
    Or the critics’ reaction,
    But the form should the appeal court reverse.

  7. Matthew Oleynik

    More cute than clever: Parrish & Heimbecker Limited v. B.M.T. Farms, 2008 CanLII 730 (Ont. S.C.J.):

    This trial was about beans—dry edible bean culls to be more precise—tons and tons of beans—a veritable hill of beans.

    The Plaintiff says that the Defendant entered into two contracts with it to buy certain quantities of bean culls over certain time periods at specified prices.

    The Defendant says no such contract was made—that the Plaintiff is full of beans!

    There are also the judgments of Justice Quinn, which rarely fail to entertain.

    Miller v. Carley, 2009 CanLII 39065 (Ont. S.C.J.):

    After a busy day conducting illegal drug transactions, the plaintiff, the defendant and a mutual friend stopped at a corner store where the defendant purchased some “scratch” lottery tickets. One of the tickets proved to be a $5-million winner.

    The parties dispute ownership of the winning ticket. If the ticket were a child and the parties vying for custody, I would find them both unfit and bring in Family and Children’s Services.

    Pirbhai v. Singh et al., 2010 ONSC 2446:

    Singh, on the other hand, is a devious man and an unbelievable witness who will do or say anything to advance his position. He was maddeningly unwilling to respond to the simplest of questions and often had to be asked the same question over and over (no doubt using the time gained to visit his pantry of untruthful answers). He was evasive, non-responsive and verbose in his testimony. Throughout the trial, I patiently waited for a Phoenix-like moment that might serve to rehabilitate his credibility: it never came. All in all, he was an exasperating witness who told untruths too numerous to catalogue and insulting in their breadth. [footnote: I feel somewhat responsible for this as I must have done or said something during the trial that caused Singh to believe that I was dim-witted.]

    There are lots more.

  8. Mr. Singh according to a report in the Toronto Star, has a history of activities that many would consider at least questionable.

    Another newspaper reporter asked Mr. Singh’s lawyer for the lawyer’s view of the reasons for judgment. The lawyer’s answer, according to the National Post, is as remarkable as the reasons: “It definitely took me by surprise”.

  9. Correction. The last sentence in the last paragraph of comment 8, should have begun: “The lawyer’s answer, as reported in the National Post …”. The article does not express any opinion on the qualities of the lawyer’s answer. The opinion is mine.