Life Is a Lottery

There’s a guy in Tennessee who’s learned that superstitions about numbers are silly. Or maybe he’s learned not to listen to gut instincts. What do guts know?

I found out about this in a brief but astonishing ruling from a Tennessee appeals court last week that demonstrates the importance of luck in life, and at the same time demonstrates how good luck can turn bad very quickly.

It seems that an unidentified person bought a lottery ticket at an auto parts store, left, contemplated the ticket in hand and then when back to the store, “insisting that the numbers on the ticket were not the ones the customer wanted.”

Can you guess what happened next?

Yep. The customer got a new, losing ticket and the store employee — who happened to be married to a son of the store owners — followed company policy that said if there was a mistake in selling a lottery ticket, the employee had to buy the ticket.

The repurchased ticket turned out to be worth $25.5 million.

Happy ending? Of course not. Two sons of the store owners then proceeded to dump their wives. The cynical among us (I’m raising my hand) might assume they were trading in for younger models. The ex-wives sued for their share of the lottery winnings but apparently won’t get it because they waited too long to file suit.

What can we learn from this?

If you care about your marriage, don’t buy a lottery ticket.

Judges Gonna Judge. In other ironic news last week, a judge in New Orleans has at least temporarily stepped down after being accused of judging.

According to news reports, the judge grabbed a female public defender in a drug court and told everyone how great she looked. Then he spotted another woman in the courtroom and compared her looks and size — unfavorably — to the public defender.

Oddly, the local Chief Public Defender complained about this.

So here’s an interesting ethical question: If a judge shows bias in your favor, is it malpractice to complain about this? You’re not doing your client a favor.

Discuss.

Another law practice issue. Consider this: Should you advise a client to sue a person or entity that almost certainly has never heard of the client and hasn’t harmed the client in any way?

In case you missed it, a woman named Laura Murray Cicco has sued the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in federal court in Kansas over ownership of a vial of dust — some of which may have come from the moon.

No, NASA hasn’t demanded that Cicco turn over the dust. NASA, as far as I can tell, probably had no idea this dust vial even existed. NASA, I’m guessing, hasn’t been frantically searching for more moon dust so that it can finally complete its analysis of outer space.

OK, I do realize there’s some collector’s item value here — the vial supposedly was a gift from Neil Armstrong, and the dust, according to the complaint, may have been vacuumed off his space suit.

Does this mean that American hero Neil Armstrong stole material belonging to the government? Has a statute of limitations run on this theft, or is it tolled until the theft is discovered? Is Cicco an innocent participant or an accessory after the fact?

And what exactly is this “terrestrial material” that the suit says is mixed in with the moon dust? Could it be Armstrong poop? If so, does Armstrong poop belong to the government or the astronaut? Does Armstrong poop make the moon dust more or less valuable?

I’m guessing we’re going to see this vial on eBay once the dust settles.

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