This is the property of the Daily Journal Corporation and fully protected by copyright. It is made available only to Daily Journal subscribers for personal or collaborative purposes and may not be distributed, reproduced, modified, stored or transferred without written permission. Please click "Reprint" to order presentation-ready copies to distribute to clients or use in commercial marketing materials or for permission to post on a website. and copyright (showing year of publication) at the bottom.

The Legal Follies 2007

By Megan Kinneyn | Dec. 2, 2007

Law Office Management

Dec. 2, 2007

The Legal Follies 2007

With million-dollar pants suits, robbers disguised as trees, lawsuits against the Lord, and choreographed criminals putting on a big show at the Big House, it's time to look at some of the year's most outlandish moments in the law.

      Do as I Say, Not as I Sue
      Judge Robert Bork, an enthusiastic advocate of tort reform, sued the Yale Club of New York City for $1 million after he slipped and fell while mounting a dais to give a speech. During the spill, he bumped his head and injured his leg.
      She Should Have Known It Was a Dangerous Place?There Were Dead People Everywhere
      After falling into an open grave and breaking her hip as she tried to place flowers on a friend's casket, an elderly woman sued the funeral home and the town of Highlands, North Carolina, for more than $75,000; her husband joined in the lawsuit, claiming alienation of affection.
      An Inconvenient Goof
      Racking up yet another coup for low-emission vehicles, 24-year-old Al Gore III demonstrated this summer how a hybrid Toyota Prius can exceed 100 mph. San Diego deputies said they found marijuana, Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderall in the car of the former vice president's son.
      When the "Other Man" Is Named Hewlett-Packard
      Jason Griffith was held on $50,000 bail for reckless endangerment, assault, disorderly conduct, and harassment?after he gunned down his wife's computer. Griffith, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, reportedly returned home to find his wife chatting with other men on shortly before he shot the computer.
      Some Guys Will Do Anything for a Piece of Cheese
      Actor Perry Caravello asked the Los Angeles Superior Court for $10.5 million in damages from a comic who allegedly tricked Caravello into putting his penis into a mousetrap during a radio show appearance. The incident, which the suit alleges "severely injured" Caravello, was videotaped without his permission and posted online.
      Walking That Narrow Line Between Degrading Punishment and Floor Show
      Murderers, drug pushers, and rapists in the Philippines get their daily exercise doing dance routines to "Thriller." Prisoners who would rather dance to a different tune have the option of exercising in a nun's habit to songs from the movie Sister Act.
      Let's See State Farm Match That Job Offer
      A courthouse security officer in Concord, New Hampshire, was convicted of prostitution in March after persuading a couple to engage in sex in front of him. He paid them $20 to perform sexual acts for an hour, saying that they would be testing a particular brand of bed sheets and condoms for an insurance company.
      My Name, Officer? Uh ... Larry Craig
      After cosponsoring legislation earlier this year to increase the penalty for "public lewdness and indecent exposure"?making trolling for sex partners in public restrooms a felony?Rep. Bob Allen (R-Fla.) was arrested in a men's room. Undercover officers said Allen, who had been in and out of a restroom three times in the space of a few minutes, had offered oral sex for $20.
      What Do You Expect from the Homeland of the Sex Pistols?
      Proving that England really is a jolly old place, a 27-year-old robber held up a betting establishment with his girlfriend's vibrator, walking away with £613 in cash. However, a witness with "very considerable courage" followed the thief, and justice was ultimately meted out: The thief got five years and the witness received a £500 reward. It was unclear whether the woman got her vibrator back.
      The Fleeing Nun
      A jury ordered Sister Marilu Saltzmann Covani and the Sisters of Providence to pay a Redlands, California, woman $3.2 million in damages from a hit-and-run traffic accident. Sister Marilu had made a U-turn in her Honda, clipping another car and sending it into oncoming traffic. She then fled the accident scene.
      In Any Case, If You Hear a Urinal Talking, It's Time to Call a Cab
      A pilot program in New Mexico has placed Wizmark Interactive Urinal Communicator devices in bar and restaurant urinals. Activated by a motion detector, the device urges patrons to call a cab or ask a sober friend for a lift, rather than risk a DWI charge. "Make the smart choice tonight, don't drink and drive!" Wizmark coos in a female voice. "Remember, your future is in your hand."
      Since That's a Federal Crime, We Can Call in the ... Never Mind
      According to a report released in February, the FBI loses three or four laptops each month?some of which contain classified information. That was good news, however, as the previous report logged lost computers at a rate of eleven per month.
      His Appeal, He Admitted, Was Just A Shot in the Dark
      A blind man objected when a Minnesota judge rejected his permit application to carry a concealed weapon on the grounds that permit holders must show proficiency with the weapons and on the firing range. "I'm trying to prove a point that people without sight still can carry [a gun] because brains are more important than eyesight in securing public safety," countered the 33-year-old, who already has gun licenses from North Dakota and Utah.
      And He Calls Himself Sly
      "Doing Rambo is hard work," Sylvester Stallone told the courtroom in May. Just the same, he was convicted of illegally bringing testosterone and human-growth hormone into Australia. Stallone argued that he needed the substances for "cosmetic or therapeutic purposes" during an upcoming Burmese-jungle shoot for the next Rambo flick.
      But How, Exactly, Would You Swear Him In?
      State Senator Ernie Chambers, a longtime legislator from Nebraska, in September filed a suit against God in the Douglas County District Court. The suit claims that God has made terrorist threats against the senator and his constituents, inspiring fear, widespread death, and destruction. Senator Chambers asked for a permanent injunction against the Lord.
      That's $25,000 Plus, of Course, the Sentimental Value
      Shortly after leaving jail this summer, a 59-year-old man sued the police department in San Rafael, California, for return of his vast pornography collection, which his attorney valued at as much as $25,000. With "peeping-related" arrests spanning nearly three decades, the man had been doing time for secretly videotaping a woman and a teenage girl in bedrooms and bathrooms at an apartment complex.
      He Had Also Forgotten the First, Fourth, and Other Amendments
      Before stepping down as attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales spent six hours one particularly foggy day responding to Senate Judiciary Committee questions. Gonzales testified he had done nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors from the Justice Department, but responded at least 71 times that he could neither recall nor remember conversations or events surrounding the dismissals.
      He's Now Doing Six to Ten in the Angelus National Forest
      In New Hampshire, a bank robber disguised as a tree held up a branch of Citizens Bank. Thanks to security-camera footage, in spite of the leafy branches duct-taped to the man's head and torso, officials were able to recognize and capture the robber.
      The League Has No Sympathy for Those Who Worship Gods It Can't License
      Though the NFL evidently has no objections to bars showing the Super Bowl on big-screen TVs, it did send a letter to the Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis when it learned that the congregation intended to show a broadcast of the game on a screen larger than 55 inches, in possible violation of trademark and copyright laws.
      World's Most Annoying Interpretation of the Phrase "Pants Suit"
      A teary-eyed Judge Roy L. Pearson Jr. testified to a Washington, D.C., court that his neighborhood dry cleaner had tried to pass off a cheaper pair of pants for the ones he had brought in and planned to wear during his first week on the bench. In his $67.3 million suit (later reduced to $54 million) against the cleaners, the judge calculated damages at a rate of $18,000 for each day over a nearly four-year period in which signs at the dry cleaner promised "Satisfaction Guaranteed."
      Since She Worked for the Government, No Doubt She Was Going to Spend More Money Than She Actually Had
      After throwing a curling iron she was trying to buy at a store clerk, an aide to the Massachusetts governor recently was charged with felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The clerk had refused to take the woman's check when the government employee would not produce her driver's license.
      Police Ran a Search on "How to Catch Clueless Criminals"
      Security-camera footage revealed that after more than an hour of trying to crack the safe at a family amusement business in Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of two burglars performed a Google search for "how to open a safe." Thanks to detailed online instructions, the two walked away with about $12,000 in cash, a laptop computer, and a PlayStation video-game console.
      If There's Anything Worth Protecting and Maintaining, It's Our Country's Foreign Policy
      A San Francisco judge tossed out state Attorney General Jerry Brown's suit against the world's six largest carmakers, saying it is impossible to determine to what extent the automakers are responsible for the ravages of global warming in California. Carbon-dioxide emissions have many fathers, the judge ruled, adding that keeping the lawsuit alive could threaten the United States' foreign-policy position.
      Since the 14th Amendment Is Also Based on Race, That's Got to Go Too
      In what many saw as a reversal of Brown v. Board of Education?the landmark 1954 ruling that outlawed segregated schools as unconstitutional?the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority concluded last term that any school-admissions policy based on race is a violation of every child's 14th Amendment right to be treated as an individual without regard to race.
      If It Could Have Gotten Him onto Entertainment Tonight, He'd Have Thrown the Book at His Wife as Well
      Within a month after L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo fought to get Paris Hilton to serve a 45-day jail sentence for driving on a suspended license, his wife pleaded no contest to the same offense. (She received probation.) It also emerged that in 2004 Michelle Delgadillo had borrowed and crashed her husband's city vehicle, which was later repaired at taxpayer expense.

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

For reprint rights:

Email for prices.
Direct dial: 949-702-5390

If you would like to purchase a copy of your Daily Journal photo, call (213) 229-5558.

Send a letter to the editor: