Legally Speaking: The Justie Awards Are Back! (Part 1)

John G. Browning Jan. 13, 2011, 12:00am

As movie award nomination season kicks into high gear with nominations for the Golden Globes, SAG awards, and various film critic association nods rolling out, I thought it would only be fair to recognize the best (or worst) of another major source of entertainment: the American legal system.

So, without further ado, here are some more nominees for what I like to call the "Justie" Awards.

Best . . Name Change . . Ever

Getting a name changed legally is a pretty common occurrence, particularly in cases of marriages, adoptions, and divorces. But some people seek name changes for other reasons.

Douglas Allen Smith Jr. of Eugene, Ore., sought permission from a Lane County judge in November to change his name because he was inspired by the nickname of the Dr. Devon Woodcomb character on the NBC television show "Chuck."

So, the unemployed cabinet installer from Eugene is now legally known as—drum roll, please—"Captain Awesome."

The former Mr. Smith did have to convince a somewhat skeptical judge, but now he's officially "Awesome."

He also is now permitted to sign his name as a right arrow, a smiley face, and a left arrow.

We Saw This One Coming

In October, 19-year-old Faribah Maradiaga was charged with second degree assault after she stabbed one of her classmates.

What makes this slightly different from your typical assault case is that the attack took place in an anger management class!

The Bellevue, Wash., woman, who already had a pending assault charge (color me surprised), apparently got into a heated argument with the classmate over an anger management video that was being shown, and things quickly escalated.

Poetic Justice

In October, Joseph Jacobbi, the owner of the Buffalo, N.Y., pizzeria Casa Di Pizza, was convicted of wrongfully withholding more than $100,000 in sales taxes over a four-year period.

But state Supreme Court Justice Russell Buscaglia saw a way to turn a negative into a positive. He ordered Jacobbi to make restitution, but spared him a prison term of up to seven years—on the condition that he help feed the homeless.

That's why on every Tuesday night for a year, Jacobbi must bring 12 sheet pizzas to the City Mission homeless shelter.

The judge told the restaurant owner, "I will leave the choice of toppings up to you."

Sometimes We Just Need to Feel Wanted

No one knows precisely why 44-year-old Selma Elmore flagged police officer Dan Lyons down last October in Lockland, Ohio. The woman asked Officer Lyons if there were any warrants out for her arrest.

After he dutifully checked and told her that she did in fact have an outstanding warrant, Elmore ran. Lyons gave chase, and the suburban Cincinnati woman was soon apprehended.

In addition to the original warrant (failing to pay a fine related to a drug conviction), Elmore now faces a charge of resisting arrest.

Now That's A Bad Hair Day

Bobbie Todd of Southaven, Miss., likes to make a fashion statement with his signature braids and two spiked pony tails, and at Christmastime, he gets in the spirit of the season by adding Christmas ornaments and even lights to his hairdo.

However, the court personnel at the Southaven traffic court didn't share his artistic flair, and Todd was told by the bailiff to leave due to his flamboyant hairstyle.

Todd left, but was clearly unhappy, saying "It shouldn't be a problem at all. I'm going in there to conduct business. You got people murdering, killing, doing all kinds of stuff and you wanna pinpoint my hair. I just think it's wrong."

Extreme Makeover

Self-styled neo-Nazi John Ditullio of St. Petersburg, Fla., is one scary-looking guy. The 24 year old has facial tattoos that include a swastika, a profane phrase, and a Frankenstein-like line of mock stitches down one side of his face.

But during his recent murder trial, his lawyer argued that—to prevent a jury from prejudging him based on appearance alone—Ditullio had a constitutional right to put his best face forward, literally. So, thanks to a cosmetologist paid more than $100 a day on the taxpayers' nickel, no one got to see the offensive tattoos.

However, Ditullio was convicted of murder nevertheless, and was sentenced to life based on the jury's recommendation.

Who Says Lawyers Have No Standards?

Like most attorneys, the New Mexico law firm of Modrall Sperling gets its share of prospective clients who, for a variety of reasons, it declines to take on.

But they certainly wrote one of the best letters I've ever seen declining representation to a would-be litigant who wanted to file a $9 billion lawsuit "against Jesus Christ, the Pope, the Vatican, the Catholic Church, and others" because the plaintiff claimed to be the true son of God.

Pointing out that the lawyers in the firm (Catholic and otherwise) cling to the "belief that Jesus provided salvation and reconciliation with God to all of humankind by dying for their sins," the attorney writing on behalf of the firm stated "we are unable to offer representation to you at this time."

Of course, the lawyer went on to cheekily remind the aspiring client that "if you are—as you proclaim to be—the true son of God, you probably already know that (what with the whole omniscience thing)."

Don't miss next week's segment, because it just gets even stranger.

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