After an intensive evaluation process, which involved me reading things and writing down the names of the ones I liked, the top ten stories of 2006 have been chosen. In no particular order, they are:
Client in a Box
Quick thinking, or some kind of thinking, anyway, led to this creative strategy by a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Worried that a potential witness might be at the courthouse for a photo lineup at the same time his client was there for a preliminary hearing, the attorney punched two holes in a box, slapped the box on his client’s head, and away they went. That kept the client’s face out of view, but got the rest of him (box included) pictured on the Internet.
Documents released in 2006 showed that during the G-8 summit in Scotland the previous year, a presidential outing on Mountain Bike One had ended in tragedy when the President, attempting to ride, wave, and speak at the same time, lost control and crashed headlong into a policeman guarding his route. The policeman was hospitalized for ankle injuries. The President suffered only minor scrapes, and later graciously apologized to the injured policeman. The report speculated that news of the incident had been suppressed in order to spare all parties embarrassment.
The Saga of Judge Floro
Judge Florentino Floro became a worldwide cause celebre, and eventually a personal acquaintance, after he was removed from the bench in Malabon City, outside Manila, for a variety of unique practices including occasional conferences with three "mystic dwarves" or spirit guides, Armand, Luis, and Angel. Judge Floro appealed his removal (or "separation," under local law) all the way to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, but was unsuccessful, despite citing "Lowering the Bar" in support of his Third Supplemental Brief to the Supreme Court. In an email interview, Judge Floro argued that his mystic friends and psychic gifts should not have been allowed to overshadow his honesty, integrity, commitment, and his excellent bar exam score (on a test that he assured me was far more difficult than the one we take here in California). Now that he has more time, Judge Floro has become a prolific blogger himself, and also a frequent self-Googler, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his repeated contributions this past year.
Mark Foley’s Disgusting Emails
In September, Rep. Mark Foley abruptly resigned from Congress after questions were raised about a series of highly questionable emails he sent to a former page. The emails, which were made public by ABC News and on the Internet, displayed shocking inconsistencies in capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure, errors that were all more disturbing because they appeared in messages sent by a 52-year-old man to an impressionable minor. Foley later apologized publicly (in a run-on sentence) and announced that he would be entering a grammar-rehabilitation program.
The Face of Taster’s Choice
In 2005, I wrote about Christoff v. Nestle USA, in which a man who discovered his face had been used on jars of "Taster’s Choice" for sixteen years without his permission was awarded $15.6 million in damages by a Los Angeles jury. Nestle appealed, and by an odd twist of fate I was in the Second District Court of Appeal in October 2006 to argue another case on the same day the Christoff case was argued, and so I stayed to take notes. The case still has not been resolved; the court has asked for supplemental briefing and a decision likely will be delayed until summer 2007.
Developments in Corporate-Mascot Law
It appears that I’m developing a special expertise in the law applying to corporate mascots. There were a number of mascot-law stories in 2006, including: the arrest of "Benny the Bull" for an assault on an off-duty Chicago police officer; the troubles inflicted on the "Arkansas Chicken Man" by the people of Searcy, Arkansas, including attacks involving frozen drinks, Skoal cans, and a salvo of bottle rockets; the infringement of the First Amendment rights of "Lady Liberty" and "Mattress Man" by the city council of McHenry, Illinois; and the Ninth Circuit’s affirmation of such rights in a case brought by "Blazing Bagels" of Redmond, Washington.
I know my partners will be thrilled to learn that I have this expertise in such a lucrative area of the law.
Lawyer Costumed as Bin Laden is Surprised by Arrest
Tip for attorney readers: it may be within your constitutional rights to dress up as Osama bin Laden for Halloween and then go out to the interstate to wave a (fake) AK-47 and sticks of dynamite at passing motorists as a "tax protest," but it’s not likely to win you any big smiles from the ethics committee. Tip for motorists: Osama bin Laden is not believed likely to personally invade Maine in an attempt to disrupt traffic on I-295, and especially if it’s Halloween night you might not need to be so quick to call in an air strike. I’d call for everybody to just stand down a little, but since just this week Boston was completely panicked by mysterious "devices" that turned out to be a publicity stunt using lighted signs featuring the cartoon characters of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I’m not going to bother.
Developments in the Law Affecting Jugglers and Carnival Folk
I’m also tracking developments in circus-related legal areas, of course. I’m having a little trouble finding the story on the human cannonball who was fired because he was afraid to fly, which is one of my favorites but which may have happened in 2005. There were, however, a number of other tales to tell in this area from 2006, such as: a theft of juggling equipment, including a unicycle, from the car of two men attending a juggling festival in Omaha; threats against Happy the Clown and other clowns and clown-like performers by a scary New York law firm seeking to protect its client’s trademark rights; a dramatic ruling in December that playing "Hacky-Sack" did not constitute "juggling" for purposes of a jugglers’-rights ordinance in Boulder, Colorado; and a crackdown on snake charmers in India.
Ninth Circuit Discriminates Against Personal-Jet Owners
Again displaying its bias against the nation’s billionnaires, the Ninth Circuit ruled in July that Ron Tutor did not have a constitutional right to land his personal 737 at tiny Friedman Memorial Airport in order to reach his vacation home in Sun Valley, Idaho. The jet weighs almost twice the limit for the runway there, but Tutor still maintained that his constitutional rights were cruelly violated by forcing him to either fly somewhere else or use a smaller plane. The district court rejected Tutor’s multiple civil-rights claims, as well as an argument under the ever-popular but virtually-never-successful Commerce Clause. (Tip to law students: if you see a friend bubbling in any answer on the MBE that corresponds to the words "Commerce Clause," you may wish to consider an immediate group intervention.) The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Sadly, it did not reach the question whether aircraft weight is a "suspect classification" for purposes of the Equal Protection Clause.
DA Unconcerned About Credibility of Witness Who Sees Horned Aliens
It was tough to pick between this and Man Injures Self When Assaulting Biker Gang for Number Ten, but I finally decided on this one. It seems to be a little more closely related to the legal world, plus it involves horned aliens.
Well, it seems like it’s well past time to get back to 2007, so I’ll stop there. Thanks to all those who voted, those who read but didn’t vote, those who were the subject of stories but didn’t get mad, and those who got mad but kept it to themselves. It was a good year.