Semantics: I’m in a courthouse line last week when a muscular guy with a shaved head, wearing shorts, gets up to the window and asks for a restraining order form.
The clerk asks the standard question: “Who is it against?”
Reply: “My partner.”
You can feel the cogs turning slowly in the clerk’s head. She doesn’t want to say the wrong thing.
“I just want to make sure I’m getting it right. Is that domestic?”
Getting things right semantically seems to be harder and harder.
For example, why isn’t GlaxoSmithKline in jail?
That was my immediate thought when I heard the drug company was hit with a $1 billion criminal fine, plus another $2 billion civil fine.
After all, corporations are people. They have a right to speak (really loudly). So why aren’t they thrown in jail like human criminals?
Do humans have an equal protection class action here?
Now I know that some of you are going to object that it’s hard to picture a large corporation in jail.
Fair enough. Now picture a large corporation talking.
If we can make them talk, we can throw them in jail.
The simple solution is to build a fence around Glaxo buildings and make it produce license plates or drugs for the government until its time is served.
The $3 billion fine bothers me a bit too. Spending money is equivalent to talking. So we’re forcing Glaxo to talk – at length.
Isn’t there a First Amendment forced-speech problem with that?
Isn’t it cruel and unusual to make us listen?
A subtle hint: Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is being tactful or rude.
Check out the latest issue of California Bar Journal. One of the top stories is accompanied by a picture of two friendly looking elderly gents. The story is about lawyers who have practiced for a really long time.
Now scan down the page a little way to this headline: “Lawyer Assistance Program widens its scope to dementia.”
Is that a hint?
An irresponsible vegetable. Have you ever noticed that people in comas are incredibly unreliable?
I mean, you can’t get them to do anything.
Normally, I’d cut people in vegetative states some slack. I can relate to wanting to relax. But a coma is no excuse when your child needs you.
If you don’t believe me, check out a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit called Ayton v. Holder, in which the court upholds a deportation because the petitioner’s mother failed to die and insisted on lying in bed doing nothing.
If you didn’t think immigration law was weird before, you will after reading this opinion.
A person is getting kicked out of the country because his mother wasn’t brain dead and she hadn’t bothered to become a naturalized citizen while in the hospital or legally separate from the petitioner’s father (because they were never married in the first place).
If there had been a legal separation, or if Mom had been brain dead, the petitioner would have been fine.
Sample sentence from the ruling: “(T)he fact that Ford survived for six years after she suffered her brain injury suggests that she was in a persistent vegetative state, but not brain dead.”
So she didn’t have any excuses.