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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Niceness in Court

October 8, 2018
Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

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

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I don’t say this very often, but every now and then it seems that a federal judge is being way too nice. I refer you to a ruling last week from a federal judge in Missouri that contains this sentence: “The Court reiterates that Doe’s mother and stepfather’s advocacy on behalf of their son is admirable, and, as it did on several occasions at the hearing, commends them.”

What wonderful things were these parents doing for their child? They were suing to get him on a soccer team. Imagine how popular this kid is now with coaches and other players at the school — and how much playing time he would have gotten if he’d won.

Suing as Jane Doe on behalf of John Doe probably didn’t help. The kid’s identity can’t be a secret at school. I think it’s the parents who’d probably rather not be identified.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that at least one of the parents is a lawyer. Picture the kid coming home dejected after not making the soccer team and a parent’s reaction is: “Don’t worry kid. We’ll sue!”

Why is this judge commending them? Maybe his kid plays soccer.

More politeness. Of course, just because a judge is being nice doesn’t mean he’s sincere.

This is a footnote from a Ninth Circuit ruling issued last week: “We thank amici curiae, Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union, for their thought-provoking briefing.”

The ruling then completely ignored whatever thoughts were provoked and didn’t even describe the arguments. You have to applaud this because it makes for a much more concise, easy-to-read ruling.

The case, by the way, was one in which the government got a warrant to search a guy’s computer because it thought he might be spying for China and discovered instead that he enjoyed child pornography. They didn’t catch a spy but they got a child porn collector instead as a consolation prize.

At this point, you have to wonder what the probable cause for the warrant was. Were people wondering why he kept switching his computer screen to Excel sheets whenever anybody walked by?

The key takeaway from this ruling, however, is that you need to be creative when you name your file folders. The defendant here, a guy named Keith, stored his porn in a “Keith” folder.

Advise your clients to make up better names.

Butter pleasing. Strange as it may seem, the State of Wisconsin is nice about bad butter. I know this because of a fascinating ruling from the Seventh Circuit in which we learn the descriptions of various grades of butter.

Three grades, AA, A and B, are various forms of “pleasing.” And then there’s Wisconsin Undergrade Butter — which is “any butter that ‘fails to meet the requirements for Wisconsin Grade B.’”

They couldn’t bring themselves to call it bad butter — just butter that isn’t as good as the other stuff. We won’t call any butter bad — just underachieving. It might get better with encouragement.

The ruling, by the way, is yet another example of the educational value of litigation. Here we learn that anyone can become an official butter taster. All you have to do is pay a $75 fee and pass a butter-grading exam that includes a written test. I’m guessing an essay on licking technique.

After that, your career path is set.

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