Things That Go|’WTF’ in the Night | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Things That Go|’WTF’ in the Night

Recent things that make you go "WTF?!?"

Item 1 is from a 5th Circuit ruling called Milton v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, in which we consider the plight of a longtime employee of that department whose job it was to look for coded gang messages in inmate mail.

Does that sound hardcore?

Maybe not.

"Milton's reaction to the use of scented candles and wall plug-ins around her work area is the basis of her ADA claim ..."

Zen is not for everyone.

OK, the claim was really about her sensitivity to odors - but apparently only nice ones. According to the court, "the dust and musty smells are overwhelming to the large majority of (the prison's) employees."

No wonder the gangs are trying to send secret messages. They need air fresheners!

Now think of a prison full of scented candles and gentle chanting. This could be the answer to our gang violence problem.

As long as there's agreement on the robe colors ...

Item 2 is Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association v. Department of Energy, from the D.C. Circuit, in which a divided court ruled that decorative fireplaces are not heating equipment.

You may have thought a federal appellate court ruling wasn't necessary to reach this conclusion, but it was controversial.

It's a long opinion, complete with a dissent, but here's my favorite sentence: "It is a close question, to be sure, but Congress's refusal to define 'direct heating equipment' or qualify the term in a clear manner to apply only to functional products leaves a residuum of definitional uncertainty sufficient to establish ambiguity."

The country suffers from congressional gridlock yet again.

Then there's footnote 6: "See Heating, CAMBRIDGE ACADEMIC CONTENT DICTIONARY, ('the process of making something warm, esp. a building, or the equipment used for this')."

I'm glad we've got that cleared up.

Item 3 is a 7th Circuit ruling called Thomas v. UBS AG, which contains many fascinating WTF things.

Let us begin with this: "The plaintiffs are tax cheats, and it is very odd, to say the least, for tax cheats to recover their penalties ... from the source, in this case UBS, of the income concealed from the IRS."

Then there's this: "The plaintiffs advance a variety of common law claims without indicating the state or nation whose law gives rise to them."

Cheatsylvania, maybe?

Surely there must be some jurisdiction that lets you sue to recover tax penalties on money you reasonably thought was hidden.

Finally, there's the best part: "They argue that the bank should have prevented them from violating the law. This is like suing one's parents to recover tax penalties one has paid, on the ground that the parents had failed to bring one up to be an honest person who would not evade taxes and so would not subject himself to penalties."

Now that the idea has been planted, expect to see an avalanche of lawsuits against parents.

Item 4 is from Kadamovas v. Stevens, another 7th Circuit ruling: "One doesn't need 99 pages to make these allegations, but the complaint isn't in fact 99 pages long, as the district judge thought. It's 28 pages long, the last 71 pages being an appendix, which the judge could have stricken without bothering to read."

A complaint is only as long as the number of pages you bother to read.

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