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Friday Roundup

Block that metaphor!  While fan rowdiness in America hasn't reached the levels of European soccer hooliganism, there's cause for concern that things are getting out of hand.  The Cincinnati Bengals' recent announcement that they were establishing a "family friendly zone" at their ballpark, where fans could presumably bring their children without fear of having them turn out like the moppet at right, prompted a county commissioner to suggest that the team do the opposite:  set aside a section for drunks and jerks.  That this might have had to comprise well over half the stadium's seating capacity was confirmed by one commenter's response to the story:    "if they do make super-drunk sections, count me in for season tix…."

But a blow for civility was recently struck in, of all places, Philadelphia, where, as this story reports, Matthew Clemmens was sentenced to 30 to 90 days in jail for intentionally vomiting on another man and the man's daughters during a Phillies game.  (Making things infinitely worse is that the man happened to be an off-duty cop.)  The judge deemed Clemmens' contrition feigned, and told him, "I don't know if you were trying to hit a home-run with your friends that day, but you struck out."  Now the City of Brotherly Love can get back to more important things, like deciding where Clemmens, subsequently labeled "Pukemon," ranks in the Pantheon of Fan Boorishness in a city which booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game. 

Welcome to the jungle.  One of the few amusements I have left in life is watching the shell-shocked expressions of out-of-town lawyers who venture into the Justice Center for the first time for a 9:00 pretrial and see a 150-foot line of people waiting to go up in the elevators.  The building itself is no prize -- there's a story, probably apocryphal, that the Sears Tower in Chicago was built the same year as the Justice Center, for less money -- but the elevator ride is the icing on the cake.  The elevators themselves aren't the problem, it's just that the powers that be have decided that all criminal pretrials should be held at 9:00 AM.  There's probably about 15 pretrials per room, 34 judges, defendants have to be present, and they generally bring their significant others and a kid or two, divided by six elevators and 23 floors... well, you do the math.  And that's before we get to the 14 municipal court judges who have probably close to a hundred cases each morning scheduled for, yep, 9:00.  So some lawyer who's not familiar with this usually looks like he just stumbled into the Star Wars bar.

I thought of this when I came across this article (hat tip to Overlawyered).  Although primitive elevators go back to the third century BC, the "modern" electric elevator wasn't patented here until 1887, and didn't come into widespread use until the turn of the century.   And was spectacularly dangerous:

In 1925, in the city of New York alone, 87 people died in elevator accidents, including 47 from falling into empty shafts and 36 crushed by closing doors.

The article's point:  with the current state of product liability laws, nobody would (or could afford to) invent a product that killed people by the score.  Which leads to the author's query:  "How many inventions are we missing out on today because it's impossible to develop a first version that's safe enough to withstand the risk of product liability suits?"

Then again, if the guy who'd invented the elevator been able to foresee the Justice Center, he might've decided not to bother. 

But judge, how do you really feel?  You carefully formulate the theory behind the argument.  You diligently research it, then spend hours writing and fine-tuning it in the brief.  And then you get the appellate court's decision back, and they tell you that your argument -- the one you spent all that time on -- is "devoid of merit."

Devoid?  Devoid?  Isn't that a tad strong?  "Lacks merit" isn't much better, but "devoid of merit" makes it sound like you came up with the whole thing while free-basing.  Couldn't the court have just said, "We reject the appellant's argument" and called it a day?

Well, don't feel too bad, Sparky, because you didn't have your efforts summarized thusly for the world to read, as happened in this Federal case from Texas:

Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devilmay-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins.

Taking a break.  I've got lots of stuff to do in the coming week, and nothing much is happening in the courts, so The Briefcase will be on a brief Summer Hiatus next week.  See you back here on the 16th.


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