Legally Speaking: A funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse (Part 2)

By John G. Browning | Nov 21, 2011

In Part 1, I shared some recent examples of the strangeness that frequently accompanies criminal and civil cases.

As the following examples illustrate, there is a lot more where that came from:

Poetic Justice

Canadian prosecutor John Ramsay decided to add some rhyming to the closing argument he delivered during an Ottawa drunk driving trial in September.

Describing the government's case against defendant Joey Anderson, Ramsay used poetry to summarize everything from the witness testimony, the police conclusions, and even a warning about driving drunk:

"Beers at a cottage, 15 did he drink / And proceed to drive, rather than think / A marked departure from the reasonable driver / Mr. Anderson is fortunate he's a survivor."

It evidently worked, because Anderson was convicted and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Ramsay garnered a fair amount of publicity for his closing argument couplets, but later apologized, saying he didn't intend to make light of "a great public concern."

As for me, I have no problem with Ramsay's rhyming. And in his honor, here's a poem of my own:

"Ramsay's pleadings in verse / Could certainly be worse / To send felons to the slammer / Why not sue verse as a hammer?"

A Fan's Ultimate Revenge

Any diehard Yankees fan would jump at the chance to disrupt the game plans of the hated Boston Red Sox. So it must have been a dream come true for Yankees fan and process server Tom Cabral to serve suit papers on Red Sox pitcher Erik Bedard in September.

In fact, Cabral—clad in a Yankees shirt, of course—arranged to serve Bedard with child support papers from an ex-girlfriend mere hours before Bedard was set to take the mound at Fenway Park (Cabral even posted about it on his Facebook page).

It must have worked—the Red Sox lost to the Orioles that night 7–5, and not long after had a catastrophic meltdown against Tampa Bay that kept them out of the American League playoffs.

Maybe He's Climbing a "Stairway to Courthouse"

George F. Blackburn of Missouri really, really likes Led Zeppelin. So much, in fact, that the 64 year old recently had his name legally changed to "Led Zeppelin II," after his favorite album by the iconic rock band.

Blackburn/Zeppelin said he's been thinking about doing this for years, and says the group's music "changed my life, forever, and that's my whole reason for doing this."

His friends are supportive, as is his ex-wife, who calls him "L.Z." or "Zep."

You might say Blackburn/Zeppelin has a "Whole Lotta Love" for his favorite band.

Don't Mess With Texas—Or Our Trademarks

The Texas Department of Transportation, which owns the trademarked slogan "Don't Mess With Texas," has filed a restraining order to block the sale and distribution of a romance novel. The book in question, by Christie Craig, is entitled "Don't Mess With Texas" and features a cover illustration of a shirtless hunk holding a woman wearing cowboy boots in his arms.

The trademark infringement lawsuit filed by TxDOT claims that the cherished slogan could be tarnished by the book, which contains "numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of arousal, etc."

I'm not sure what her lawyers would say, but I'll bet the romance novelist herself would file a pleading that is full of "unbridled passion, with the white-hot intensity of a thousand dying suns, and rippling with steely force."

Beat Me, Whip Me, Make Me File Motions

Most government prosecutors want lawyers who excel at punishing the other side and whipping them into submission, figuratively speaking. And Alisha Smith, who up until recently was a well-respected lawyer in the Manhattan office of the New York Attorney General's office, was just such a lawyer.

Just three years ago, she was publicly praised by now-Gov. Andrew Cuomo for her role in winning a whopping $5 billion settlement from Bank of America and other defendants in a securities fraud case.

But in mid-September, Smith was suspended without pay pending an internal investigation, after it was discovered that the 36-year-old prosecutor was moonlighting as a dominatrix named "Alisha Spark."

According to published reports in the New York media, the prosecutor would turn persecutor for money, getting paid to dominate, restrain, and whip willing people at S & M events, while posing for photos in fetish costumes.

The Attorney General's office cited an official policy requiring employees to "obtain prior approval . . . before engaging in any outside pursuit . . . from which more than $1,000 will be received or is anticipated to be received."

Looks like Alisha Smith is on the receiving end of a spanking, for a change.

Suing for Lack of Sex

"Not tonight, I have a headache" may not be an option for spouses who aren't in the mood in France, if one woman's lawsuit becomes a trend.

A French wife sued her husband because he wasn't having sex with her enough. A judge in Nice agreed with her, and awarded approximately $14,000 to the wife after ruling that lack of sex was indeed a violation of the marital contract.

The judge opined that "By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other."

Only in France . . .

"A Few Good Men" Too Many

Moviegoers loved the rousing 1992 Tom Cruise / Jack Nicholson courtroom drama "A Few Good Men," about a court martial resulting from a "Code Red" hazing gone wrong at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

Few people know, though, that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's inspiration for the movie (and the play that preceded it) was a real-life hazing incident and the experiences of his sister, who was a young military lawyer who defended a Marine at a similar court martial in the 1980s.

Ten Marines were originally charged in the case that the movie was based on, but only three went to trial.

So, of the military defense lawyers who were involved in the case, who was the inspiration for Tom Cruise's dashing Lt. Kaffee character?

Well, that's a little tougher to answer. Four lawyers have either claimed to be the basis for Lt. Kaffee, or have been described in media reports as the inspiration.

Chris Johnson, who now practices in California, says "My opinion is that the Tom Cruise character is largely based on me."

Former Navy lawyer and U.S. Attorney in New Mexico David C. Iglesias was described by a 2007 Washington Post article as the inspiration for the "dreamy" Lt. Kaffee.

Meanwhile, Virginia lawyer and former Navy JAG officer Donald Marcari says on his law firm's website that "his exploits . . . became the basis for the motion picture 'A Few Good Men.'"

And Connecticut lawyer Walter C. Bansley III claimed on his website that he "was the actual military lawyer played by Tom Cruise," an assertion that also appeared in The New York Times.

So, do you want the truth? Can you handle the truth?

Well, according to Aaron Sorkin himself, "The character of Dan Kaffee in 'A Few Good Men' is entirely fictional and was not inspired by any particular individual."

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