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Friday Roundup

Story of the week.  Told to me the other day by one judge, about another former Common Pleas Judge.  The latter, affectionately known to the bench and bar as the original Ohio Legal Blank, was in his first year or two on the bench, and was working the arraignment room.  Normally, that isn't mentally challenging:  all you have to do is listen to the attorney waive the reading of the indictment and enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client, listen to someone read out the name of the judge the computer has assigned to hear the case, and follow the bond commissioner's recommendation in setting or continuing the bond.

But a hitch:  every now and then, someone would want to plead guilty in the arraignment room, and that's what happened on this occasion.  Unfortunately, the judge didn't have his plea "cheat sheet" with him, and it quickly became obvious that he was lost.  "How... uh... how old are you?  Did you go to school?  Ummmm... Can you, uh, read and write?"  In an effort to be helpful, the bond commissioner stage-whispered the next part of the plea colloquy:  "Are you under the influence of alcohol or drugs?"

At which point the judge turned to him and said, petulantly, "No, Bob, I'm not!"

Beefcake alert (no pun intended).  There are numerous reasons why I will not be selected as the Sexiest Male Vegetarian Over 50 by PETA, one of them being that I'd take the gas pipe before making tofu and soy milk staples of my diet.  As Legal Blogwatch tells us, Robert Lombardo, a Rhode Island lawyer, did win just that award.  His resume includes not only an aversion to any animal-based products -- he's not just a vegetarian, but a vegan -- but also previous stints as a fashion model and "two years as in house counsel for a small internet company that produced adult entertainment."  Hmmm.  That last gig strikes me as slightly more appealing than sitting around while some assistant prosecutor waits in line for an hour so her supervisor can decide whether to let my client plead to a 5th degree felony instead of a 4th degree.  I could easily see myself ensconced in a Barcalounger on my client's set, gobbling down my Mammoth Burger® while supervising the latest "production" so I can render advice, between bites, of how to ensure that a scene has sufficient social value to avoid an obscenity prosecution. 

Any, according to the story by a local station, Lombardo's victory means he gets "a five-night trip for two to a vegetarian and ecologically-oriented resort in Guatemala."

Which reminds me of the joke, "...and second prize is ten days in Guatemala..."

Only when they pry the Oreos out of my cold, dead hands.   Speaking of food, on Monday, President Obama signed the reauthorization of the federal nutrition program, which gives money to local schools for lunches, and in some cases breakfasts.  This year's version included not only more money, but standards for the nutritional value of food that schools are allowed to serve.  The bill hasn't engendered much opposition -- by titling it the "Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act," Congress pretty much ensured that grousing about it would be like protesting passage of a resolution encouraging Americans to give puppies a good home -- but some concerns are being expressed about the bill's scope:  not only does it pertain to food served in school cafeterias or in vending machines, but to any food served on school premises when school is in session.

Any food?  That's right:  we may just have seen the death knell sound for that long-time public school institution, the bake sale fundraiser.  At the urging of public health groups, language was included in the bill encouraging the Secretary of Agriculture to allow bake sales only if they're infrequent.  In fact, the language is broad enough that the Secretary could ban them altogether, but SoA Tom Vilsack has said that he doesn't intend to do so.  And if there's one thing we've learned, it's that when somebody in government says he is or isn't going to do something, you can take that to the bank.

Of course, all this is light years behind the more progressive cities, like New York, which, as this article notes, effectively banned bake sales in October of 2009.  The city relented somewhat in February, allowing parents groups to have one such sale per month, and easing the restrictions on what could be sold.  Well, maybe "easing" isn't the word:  a food item must meet eleven criteria to get on the approved list.  And no home-made stuff at all, since "'it's impossible to know what the content is, or what the portion size is,' said Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor for infrastructure and portfolio planning, who oversees the regulation."  "Chancellor"?  Somehow, I think they could have chosen an official with a less fearsomely Teutonic title to be the spokesperson on this issue.

Although she may have a point.   The picture accompanying the article shows a table laden with a bevy of enticing snacks, three of which are labeled:  "Seven Layer Cookie Bars," "S'mores Brownies," and -- I swear to God I am not making this up, look at the picture yourself if you don't believe me -- "Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies."

Holiday scheduling.  As usual, The Briefcase will be on hiatus for the holidays.  I'll be back here on January 3 with the dish on all the latest decisions.  And since the appellate courts generally go on hiatus at the same time, I may have to do some digging to come up with something then.  Enjoy your holiday.

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