The Gavel’s Greatest Hits
Last week one of my friends sent me a Facebook message of a rather humorous court opinion which got me thinking of some of my favorite court opinions which I will share here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
When a judge makes a decision, particularly at the appellate level, he will often accompany his decision with an opinion. An opinion is a judge’s extended explanation, which generally includes a recitation of a case’s facts and procedural posture, of his legal analysis to demonstrate how and why he made his decision and what led him to make such a decision. Sometimes, either because the judge is particularly snarky or funny, or he wants to point out just how preposterous the underlying case is, or he wants to make commentary on the case, attorneys, and/or parties involved, or maybe just because it is fun, a judge will draft an opinion that is funny and/or irreverent and/or sarcastic and/or bombastic and/or otherwise notable and worth reading even if one has no interest or need in the case itself.
One of my all time favorites opinions I read in my law school contracts class. It deals with a guy who saw this Pepsi Cola advertisement regarding accumulating Pepsi points in order to earn various prizes: In the ad a kid earns a jet after accumulating 7 million Pepsi points. I think the ad is obviously in fun and the jet also obviously not an actual prize, but that did not stop someone from accumulating 7 million Pepsi points and suing Pepsi Cola for breach of contract when Pepsi refused/failed to give him the jet he worked so hard to earn. The court, which of course ruled in favor of Pepsi, entered a hilarious opinion when it did so, which you can find here in the case of Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., 88 F.Supp.2d 116 (S.D. New York 1999): Leonard v Pepsico Inc
Another fantastic opinion was written by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The case dealt with the free speech implications of banning the book Tropic of Cancer on the basis that it is obscene. The Court ruled that banning the book violated the right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but not before Justice John Musmanno entered one of the most memorable dissents ever written, in the case of Commonwealth v. Robin, 421 Pa. 70 (1966). You can find it here: Com v Robin
Sometimes the attorneys in a case are so incompetent that a Court feels the need to take note of that while making its decision, perhaps because the Court is bitter about doing the legal leg work it feels the attorneys should have done in the first place or wasting its time with a very poorly developed case. In the case of Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corporation, 147 F.Supp.2d 668 (S.D. Texas 2001), the Court hilariously castigates the attorneys for both sides for their inadequate legal work. You can find it here: Bradshaw v Unity Marine Corp Inc
Another great case involved a real estate matter where a purchaser wanted to rescind an agreement of sale based on suspicion that the house being purchased is haunted. This is the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (1991) and can be found here: Stambovsky v Ackley
Of course, lots of other websites have their own “best ofs” which you may enjoy. Check them out here:
- 5 Awesomely Sarcastic Supreme Court Decisions
- 3 of the funniest court decisions, ever!
- Judicial opinions that entertain
- Judges Say the Darndest Things: FindLaw’s List of the Top Ten Oddball Judicial Decisions
- Judge Doubles Down On Double Entendres In Strip Club Case
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!