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Assorted stuff

December 6, 2021

Trailers aren't motor vehicles, an SOB is not what you think, budgeting is hard, there's a good excuse for missing a deadline, a Google Scholar may or may not be reliable, and I can make dumb mistakes.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

What good is a trailer if it doesn’t trail?

I’m guessing this isn’t something you’ve thought about before but, believe it or not, we now have a ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue. Well, sort of.

The court ruled that trailers are not motor vehicles because they have no motors and they aren’t vehicles either “when that term is used in the context of a vehicle’s fuel economy, since motorless vehicles use no fuel.”

This came up because Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association Inc. sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a rule for trailers pulled by tractors. The trailer people didn’t want to be regulated and, for now, they won’t be — even though it’s pretty unlikely anyone is going to buy a trailer without attaching it to something that moves with a motor. Trailers are meant to be integral parts of tractor-trailers.

Expect to see similar suits from wheel and door makers. They don’t have motors either.

Motor regulation is probably out too. You can’t drive a motor on its own.

Assorted oddities from recent documents. From a Texas appeals court ruling: “According to Colette, it was informed by Harris County agents and employees about the existence of the video and it serving as the basis for the Comptroller’s position that Colette is a SOB.”

Neither Colette nor SOB are what you think they are. Colette is a swingers club and SOB is a sexually oriented business.

Why would anyone think Colette is a sexually oriented business?

Yes, the litigation is what you’re thinking it is: a dispute over whether a swingers club is a sexually oriented business. Most of you will have already made up your minds about that.

Also, yes, the business, sexually oriented or not, was invaded by undercover (or maybe naked) agents of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts who proceeded to videotape the action.

Comptrolling isn’t as boring as you may have thought.

From a Washington appeals court ruling: “Divorce is expensive.”

That’s the opening sentence of the ruling. I’m pretty sure it’s not a new precedent.

This case is a sad story, but the fascinating part of it is the description of a woman whose gross annual pay is $421,605 but can’t quite make ends meet: “The main area in which Cynthia was able to reduce expenses was to eliminate voluntary contributions to her retirement account.”

Maybe courts should be ordering budgeting counseling instead of marriage counseling.

From a Texas appeals court ruling: “Under this element, some excuse, although not necessarily a good one, suffices to show that party’s failure to respond to a summary judgment motion was not because the defendant did not care.”

You now have (at least in Texas) another excuse for missing a court deadline — the opposition’s motion went to the spam folder.

It may now be malpractice not to accidentally move things over to spam if you need more time.

From a federal judge’s ruling in New Mexico: “Money in politics is a highly subjective area of study, of which most people likely have minimal familiarity, and having Google Scholar’s most-cited academic in the field of money in politics to explain the purported effects of campaign finance laws should certainly shed light on whether they affect quid-pro-quo corruption or the appearance thereof.”

Should it?

Some of you may be wondering what it means to be cited by Google Scholar. I wondered too until I looked it up. It’s not an academic honor — it just means you’ve been cited somewhere and it’s made its way onto the internet. Self-citation (and citations from your friends) can get you on the most-cited list.

The expert in this case is a guy named Jeffrey Milyo who gets quoted by journalists writing about finance laws because, well, he’s supposed to be an expert and maybe he is. He’s also a “senior fellow” at the Cato Institute. The judge being impressed by the Google Scholar citing was appointed by a Republican president (G. W. Bush).

Make of that what you will.

Oops. Those of you who think I don’t know what I’m talking about are correct!

Journalist Steve Luxenberg kindly corrected a case of bad phrasing on my part (or maybe just outright ignorance) in last week’s column mentioning Plessy v. Ferguson. To wit:

“The ruling was about trains, not schools. It didn’t mention schools. (Nor did it state explicity that ‘separate but equal’ was fine. The ruling was based on other grounds, but that’s a more complicated matter.)”

Thanks, Steve. It’s nice to know someone’s paying attention.

Categories / Op-Ed

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