Legally Speaking: Law and Disorder

By John G. Browning | May 15, 2012

During any given week, the legal system gets more than its fair share of strange filings, odd litigants or unusual results.

For example, remember your mother's threats to wash your mouth out with soap if you used dirty words? Just picture the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board as your mother and you'll have a pretty good sense of the legal battle brewing between that state agency and Michigan-based Founders Brewing Co., the makers of "Dirty Bastard" beer.

The alcoholic beverage board has banned the sale of the beer in Alabama (where more than one-third of the counties are dry anyway) on the grounds of "profanity on its label." Bob Martin, an attorney for the board, says the agency's rules are intended "to keep dirty pictures and dirty words away from children."

Oddly enough, the board has previously approved the sale of Fat Bastard wine as well as a beer named "Raging Bitch." Founders Brewing Co. is weighing whether or not to appeal the decision, but until it does, Alabama says "yes" if you want to quench your thirst with a Fat Bastard, but not with a dirty one.

From one dirty bastard to (maybe) another, a Detroit, Mich., judge is under fire for texting a barechested photo of himself to his female bailiff's cellphone. Her husband found the photo, and has filed a complaint with Michigan's Judicial Tenure Commission over the "highly inappropriate" photo.

Judge Wade McCree is unfazed and unashamed, acknowledging that he is indeed the buff figure in the photos.

"Hot dog, yep that's me," he says. "I've got no shame in my game . . . There's nothing nude about it. I'm in no more clothes that I'll be at the Y this afternoon when I swim my mile."

And what does Judge McCree specialize in? Sexual misconduct cases, oddly enough.

From one questionable move to another, sometimes life imitates art. In the movie "Our Idiot Brother," Paul Rudd's freespirited hippie character does a brief jail stint for offering to sell pot to a uniformed police officer. Later, while meeting with his parole officer, Rudd shares that he's been smoking pot after his release, prompting an incredulous reaction from the parole officer.

Cedrick Barnes of South Carolina might want to rent that movie, since he's accused of trying to sell marijuana to his probation officer. According to police in Florance, S. C., the 27-year-old Barnes went through his cellphone address book trying to find buyers for roughly a half a pound of marijuana.

The person he wound up contacting was his former parole officer; the "buyer" then alerted police, who arrested Barnes. Barnes currently faces charges of possession of a controlled substance. If convicted, he'll probably serve enough time to update his cellphone address book.

You might want to hold off on any "Boss of the Year" awards for Jackie Brucia, a comptroller for New York's Atlantic Automotive Group (a billion dollar operator of car dealerships). Brucia desperately needed a kidney transplant in early 2011; when her employee, Debbie Stevens, offered to serve as a donor, Brucia took her up on it.

While Stevens, a 47-year-old mother of two, wasn't a match for the 61-year-old Brucia, she nevertheless went forward with the donation (which went to a recipient in Missouri), knowing that it would move Brucia up higher on the "match list" for recipients. Stevens underwent the surgery in August 2011.

Yet no good deed goes unpunished. Despite the selfless act, Stevens was first demoted and moved to a car dealership 50 miles away from home, and later fired after she complained about it.

Stevens has hired attorneys who have already filed a formal complaint with the New York State Human Rights Commission, and who plan to file a formal discrimination lawsuit against Atlantic Automotive Group.

According to Stevens, she donated a kidney because she "didn't want [Brucia] to die," but that following the surgery, "she just started treating me horribly, viciously, inhumanly." Sounds like Ms. Brucia needed a heart donor more than a kidney donor.

Finally, for anyone wishing to settle the "my lawyer can beat up your lawyer" debate, the Manhattan District Attorney's office recently held a series of charity boxing matches to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and the Give a Kid a Dream program.

Dubbed "The Battle of the Barristers," the event raised over $50,000 and pitted nearly 20 employees of the D.A.'s office (including 15 prosecutors) against each other in the ring, boxing officially sanctioned bouts lasting three rounds of two minutes each.

The event was the brainchild of Matthew Bogdanos, a prosecutor and former Marine lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq. Because no one wanted to fight Bogdanos (a former amateur boxer with a 23-3 record), the game 55 year old was matched against an amateur champion 11 years his junior with over 100 fights. Bogdanos lost the decision, but won over the crowd.

The "Fight Night" even earned the battling barristers a shoutout on the Facebook page of the Trinity Boxing Club, where many of the prosecutors trained: "If you're in NYC, don't break the law or the law will break your face."

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