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Op-Ed

Fudging the research

September 4, 2022

It's usually a good idea to make sure your citations don't contradict your argument. After all, your judge might look at them.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

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

Today’s litigation lesson: try not to cite a source that directly contradicts your argument.

You can find a recent example to avoid in a ruling by a federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois in which the plaintiff cited a cookbook written by “one of today’s leading authorities on fudge” who recommended using butter and milk when making fudge.

In case you’re wondering, the lawsuit claimed that General Mills Sales had misled consumers with a “Fudge Brownie Mix” that did not contain butter and milk.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the judge — who will now be referred to as the Fudge Judge — dug up the cookbook and read it. This is dogged legal research at its finest.

From the ruling: “Her recipe for peanut butter and chocolate fudge includes only coconut butter, maple syrup, peanut butter, vanilla extract, and dark baking chocolate, and her recipe for cayenne fudge almond milk, margarine, sugar, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and pepper.”

So you don’t have to have milk and butter. The lactose-intolerant among you may rejoice.

I’m guessing the Fudge Judge has been doing some cooking at home.

A war over world peace. Fans of long-running family drama and big-money disputes will enjoy a recent 52-page District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling in a dispute over control of the Unification Church and related entities that’s been continuing for a decade. And it’s not over yet.

Two sons of the late Reverend Sun Myung Moon have sued each other, and one of them has sued their mother. The mother has also sued the other son. There’s lots of money involved and even a Swiss “foundation” set up so that a bunch of that money could be transferred to it. You know, church donations need to go to Switzerland to keep them safe.

They’re also supposedly fighting over whether the church — or what used to be the church — should be nonsectarian or “denominational.” I have no idea whether to take this seriously.

My favorite part is this: "The record also includes evidence of other donations to secular entities, such as a private school in New York attended by Rev. Moon’s children, a martial arts organization, several anti-communist organizations, and a firearms manufacturer.”

Your basic religious activities.

I should note here that the case is called Moon v. The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. I think that means the martial arts and firearms are for peacekeeping.

Be that as it may, the court spent most of its ruling explaining why it wasn’t going to decide a religious dispute, and you had the feeling that meant the court cases were going to be over — until you get to the very end, and the ruling says the whole thing can go back to the trial court to decide if there was some fraud.

Many lawyers are making a career out of this.

Strange warfare. Almost anything can be turned into a weapon — but some weapons are stranger than others.

This appeared in a recent Maryland federal judge’s ruling: “Plaintiff and Ms. Ham argued, and plaintiff maintains that Ms. Ham then rammed a crib occupied with a baby into plaintiff’s leg. Thereafter, plaintiff pushed the baby-occupied crib back as Ms. Ham.

“After the baby-occupied-crib-shoving incident, plaintiff complained….”

I have no idea why the baby isn’t the plaintiff.

Tactical error? I usually sympathize with protesters against injustice but every now and then I wonder about their methods.

This is from an excessive force/false arrest suit filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against the Village of Dolton last week:

“Police targeted and arrested Plaintiff immediately after, through a bullhorn, he expressed his opinion that Officer Jeffrey Davis was a ‘fascist pig’ and that Sergeant Harris was a ‘fucking pig.’”

Seems like some of this unpleasantness could have been avoided.

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