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February 6, 2023

You need something catchy to entice readers. A pop music reference can help.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

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

Reading court rulings can very dull. I’ll even call it soporific — mainly because I don’t get to say “soporific” very often and I think it sounds cool.

Anyway, I bring this up because I have a suspicion there are a lot of judges out there frustrated by the fact that practically no one reads their writing. It’s hard to get noticed amidst the daily avalanche of legal opinionating. So here’s a recommendation: draw readers in with the judicial equivalent of clickbait.

I have a fine example from a recent ruling by Cristina Silva, a federal judge in Nevada. This is the opening sentence: “Five years ago, Bruno Mars informed the world that ‘gold jewelry shining so bright; strawberry champagne on ice’ were items he liked.”

It thus becomes impossible not to continue reading.

The case, as you may not have guessed, does not involve Bruno Mars, gold jewelry or strawberry champagne. What it does involve is a guy who “’avoids drinks as much possible’ because he takes medication for his blood pressure, diabetes, and anxiety” but decided to drink six bottles of beer anyway at the Tropicana Casino & Hotel pool.

No, he didn’t drown. Instead, he went to the Park MGM, won $62,000 playing slots, and then “consumed a six-pack of Heinekens within twenty minutes.”

Reading this, I’m beginning to question this guy’s claim that he avoids drinking.

He then blacked out and put all his winnings back into the slot machines. Eventually, he claimed the casino caused his loss by overserving alcohol. There’s no claim that they stuck a nozzle down his throat and forced him to drink.

The tale gets weirder after that but I won’t spoil it for you except to note there is a Bruno Mars connection — the drunken plaintiff claimed he was owed free Bruno Mars tickets for doing all that gambling.

There was no demand for jewelry or champagne.

Ego trip. I have no right to judge judges, but I’m going to do it anyway. I think judging can go to a person’s head.

If you’re a judge, you get to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. People who may be smarter than you have to beg for your approval. What you say goes. You can even dictate how people behave in front of you.

How could this not be an ego rush?

Recent case in point from a Texas Court of Court of Appeals ruling in a case brought by a Municipal Court judge trying to keep his job despite not being reappointed by the city of Brownsville: “In his pleadings, Bellamy alleges that removing him from his position as a municipal judge constitutes an irreparable injury because ‘the citizens of Brownsville will be denied his services.’”

Yep. The plaintiff, after 12 years on the bench, was convinced he was indispensable to the city and, I guess, there were no other judges who could replace him.

Self-confidence is an amazing thing.

Free speech. Racist, sexist lawyers in Idaho can relax. Your state Supreme Court has upheld your right to express yourself freely.

In case you missed it, the Idaho Supreme Court rejected a proposed Rule of Professional Conduct that would have made discrimination and harassment “professional misconduct.” You might have thought discrimination and harassment would be considered professional misconduct without a Bar rule, but the Idaho State Bar felt the need to draft a rule and put it to a vote. The new rule was approved by the state’s lawyers 680 to 329.

The Idaho Supreme then rejected the rule because it violated the First Amendment by regulating the content of speech — including “derogatory and demeaning comments based upon race, sex, religion, identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status.”

So you can say whatever you want and still be professional in Idaho.

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