Legally Speaking: If only Hallmark had a card for this

By John G. Browning | May 7, 2013

As I was picking out cards for Mother’s Day, I realized that there are so many occasions in life for which there simply is no greeting card—but maybe there should be.

I can think of a few of the less-than-shining moments in the legal system recently that probably merit an acknowledgment from Hallmark.  For example, if you’re a criminal defense attorney, what do you get that hard-to-shop-for client who’s currently doing time—a sympathy card?

If you’re California criminal lawyer Stephen Beecher, then (allegedly) nothing says “I miss you” quite like a greeting card full of heroin.  The 61-year-old lawyer was arrested April 9 for allegedly trying to smuggle a greeting card containing 36.09 grams of heroin into an L.A. County jail for his client Jesus Antonio Duenas.

Prosecutors claim that the drugs, with a street value of over $30,000, were intended for Duenas and members of a gang that controls the drug trade and other illegal activities inside the jail.  If convicted, Beecher faces 11 years in prison.

Perhaps we need another “invented” holiday to celebrate, like “Happy Obvious Day.”  The first card I would send out would be to the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom, which recently directed Booths, a supermarket chain, to pull packages of peanuts from the shelves—because they didn’t have labels warning that they may contain peanuts!

Hundreds of packets of Booths’ own “Whole Hearted Roasted Monkey Nuts” (the term “monkey nuts” refers to peanuts with the shell intact) were removed and Booths apologized for not warning customers with a peanut allergy not to consume the product.  Seriously?  Are British food labeling laws that ridiculous that we have to warn people with peanut allergies not to eat peanuts?  Happy Obvious Day to everyone at the Food Standards Agency.

While we’re at it, let’s also give a nod to “National Irony Day.”  I’m going to send a celebratory card to 39 year-old Don Castner of Manatee County, Fla.  Castner was recently arrested on charges of welfare fraud by county sheriff’s deputies after allegedly selling welfare electronic benefits cards to undercover agents.  But it’s not what Castner is accused of doing that makes this a Hallmark moment—it’s what he was wearing.  At the time of his arrest, Castner was sporting a T-shirt that read “Jail Sucks.”  Bravo for life’s little ironies, Don—now you can change into that orange jumpsuit.

And think how many cards could be sold to commemorate “National Stupidity Day.”  If only there were such a holiday, I would have a tough time choosing between numerous candidates worthy of such a card.  Two of the likeliest finalists are Henry Gribbohm and Ruben Pavon, both of New Hampshire.

Gribbohm made national headlines recently for losing his life savings—on a carnival game.  The 30-year-old Gribbohm says he was at a carnival in Manchester trying to win an Xbox Kinect by playing the game “Tubs of Fun,” in which the contestants toss balls into a tub.  Gribbohm, who prides himself on having a pretty decent ball toss, quickly lost $300 unsuccessfully playing the game.  He then stormed off home before returning with $2,300 more—his life savings.

After he proceeded to lose all of that, Gribbohm complained that the game must be rigged and announced that he’s planning a lawsuit.  A carnival game, rigged?  Color me surprised.  You blow your life savings trying to win a $200 game system, and you want to file a lawsuit over being (as Gribbohm himself put it) “a sucker?”  Happy National Stupidity Day.

Mr. Gribbohm is in good company with fellow New Hampshire resident Ruben Pavon.  Pavon was recently arrested for theft after video surveillance cameras allegedly caught him stealing a grill from a Derry thrift store.

Pavon’s defense?  He was “confused” by the store’s name—“Finders Keepers”—and thought that everything at the store was free for the taking.  Store owner Laura Barkley scoffs at the defense, saying “I don’t know of any stores where there’s free stuff.  It would be nice if there were.  I’d be there on a regular basis myself.”

Here’s wishing you a happy National Stupidity Day, Mr. Pavon—and good luck finding a lawyer who specializes in playground law and can present your “finders keepers/losers weepers” defense.

Of course, while there are also sympathy cards for almost any occasion (loss of a loved one, serious illness, etc.), a few unfortunate episodes still have no card to note the tragedy.  I, for one, would like to send the folks at the Hinds County (Mississippi) Courthouse a “Sorry Your Building is Infested with Snakes” card.

It seems that the courthouse in Jackson was the scene of an unpleasant discovery in the basement of the clerk’s office: DeKay’s snakes (which are non-venomous) had emerged from hibernation and moved into the courthouse’s lower recesses for the spring.  The courthouse workers have already brought in a snake expert to help eradicate the slithery infestation, and they’re keeping an eye out for more of the reptiles.  And let’s face it, a card that says “Sorry Your Courthouse is Infested with Snakes” could become a bestseller.

And how about the “Sorry You Were a Victim of Political Correctness” card?  I can think of plenty of likely recipients for such a card, starting with anyone who drowns in a Phoenix, Arizona municipal swimming pool this summer.  It seems that the city of Phoenix, worried that the lifeguards it has hired for the summer were overwhelmingly white, has made a concerted push to hire more black and Latino lifeguards.

That’s all very nice, but in order to get more minority candidates, the city is waiving the requirement that the lifeguards be “strong swimmers” and pass a preskills test before being certified (the preskills test requires one to be capable of 300 yards of continuous swimming, one minute of treading water hands-free, and retrieving a 10-pound brick in deep water).

Instead, minority candidates (including one who confessed to a reporter that he has “a fear of the water”) only need to pass a swim test at the end of the summer.  So, if you’re going to drown in a Phoenix municipal swimming pool, try not to do it before Labor Day.

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