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Cost-benefit analysis

June 5, 2023

Standing up for your rights may seem like a good thing, but perhaps one should consider costs first. Arguments can get out of hand.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

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

Those of you who enjoy pointless litigation might want to check out a recent ruling from a Louisiana appeals court called Devall v. Homefinders.

The battle is over a $975 security deposit — which I realize is quite a lot of money for many people. I would never say one should not battle over that sort of thing.

But — as you may have guessed — the thing kind of mutated with one side asking for $16,082.50 in attorney fees and costs and the other side asking for $22,837.50 in fees plus another $853 in costs.

The outcome (assuming there isn’t another appeal): The tenant won the $975 security deposit but lost $975 in rent due. Nobody got any attorney fees. This is after one side claimed 60.9 hours of lawyer work and the other side 49.95 hours.

I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think anyone took this on contingency.

My favorite part of this is that one side tried to recuse the trial judge because the judge’s law clerk “was making faces” at the plaintiff and her lawyer.

I definitely would have made faces at someone.

In other cost-benefit news, a Kentucky appeals court got to weigh in on a lawsuit over a school volunteer who was either forced not to breastfeed or simply asked to move to another room. The ruling is 32 pages long.

The issue on appeal: whether school officials “interfered” with breastfeeding by offering the mom a room to do it in.

It turns out that in Kentucky “the term ‘interfere’ is not defined in the statute.”

The case has been remanded to the trial court. My guess is that breastfeeding will no longer be necessary for the plaintiff’s child by the time this ends.

Screenshot showing the website of the Utah Stream Access Coalition.

In still-more long-running dispute news, the Utah Supreme Court has issued a 37-page ruling on “a single issue: whether there was a 19th century basis for an easement providing the public with the right to touch privately owned streambeds underlying state waters.”

This was not about touching the water — that’s OK. This was about what was underneath the water. You could float but maybe or maybe not stand.

This controversy began when members of something called Utah Stream Access Coalition about six years ago sued a property owner after the members were charged with trespassing for wading in the Provo River.

The struggle for civil rights never ends. This struggle has been to the state Supreme Court twice now.

At this point, you may be wondering what the coalition — USAC — is. A visit to their website is a little startling. The first thing I saw was a large photo of a human in the process of murdering a fish with their bare hands. Next to this scene is an ambiguous logo that looked to me like a crazed man attempting to bludgeon fish and fowl with an oar. But maybe I’m projecting.

One of the stated “goals” of the group is “to seek recognition of the public ownership of the beds of navigable waterways in the State of Utah.”

I have no explanation for this riverbed fetish. Some people just like to touch things they have no business touching.

The Utah court ruled in favor of the property owner and the state — you can fish and float on those waters but you can’t stand in them. The honor of the riverbed has been restored.

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