6 Judges Who Went Completely Insane on the Bench
We would like to think that the men and women who administer justice are more intelligent, rational, calm and responsible than the rest of us. We would be wrong. Judges are human beings, too, and when they get bored or angry, they become lunatics just like everyone else.
Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, their day of not giving a fuck at work is recorded forever in the public record.
Party On Plaintiff, Party On Defendant
Two things happened in 1992 that lead to this most excellent of judicial opinions -- a boat exploded in a marina in Florida, setting other boats on fire, and Wayne's World came out in theaters.
Resulting Wayne and Garth impersonations caused the national murder rate to triple.
The presiding and awesomely named Judge Paine was apparently a big fan, as his remand of this appeal was full of more Mike Myers catch phrases than a middle school talent show. His short opinion was separated into four paragraphs with the following titles:
- "Hurling Chunks"
- "Like a Winged Monkey Flying Out of the Ashes"
- "A Schwing and a Miss"
Surely you're thinking to yourself "No way!"
His enthusiastic disregard for professional legal conduct aside, Judge Paine's implementation of the dialogue is just plain baffling ("like a winged monkey flying out of the ashes" does not appear once in Wayne's World and seems more like something a hobo would say before playing a harmonica with his asshole). His ultimate ruling against the appeal of Prime Time Charters Inc. (owners of the exploding boat) concludes with the following:
"Prime Time's removal ... is a defect deemed "way" improvident ... Prime Time's most bogus attempt at removal is "not worthy" and the Defendants must "party on" in state court."
*Sigh* Go ahead, you deserve it.
Just to make it clear, there is no known connection between the case at hand and Wayne's World. No one involved in the case was named Wayne, there was no party on any of the boats and there were no gloriously inexplicable Meatloaf cameos -- nothing at all that would prompt Judge Paine to sprinkle his ruling with references to the movie. He presumably saw it the night before and was profoundly impacted, along with a nation of 14-year-olds. We're still searching the records for his next case after he saw Austin Powers.
We know it's there. It has to be there.
But it's not like his catch-phrase-filled document actually affected the ruling at all. Unlike ...
Phone Rings, Judge Loses Mind
Judge Robert M. Restaino was overseeing hearings in a domestic violence program where defendants are judged as to whether they should be put in jail or given probation with a rehabilitation program. Being short on prison space, the latter option is almost always chosen. But one day, with a courtroom full of convicted domestic abusers, somebody's cellphone went off. Judge Restaino proceeded to go apeshit, demanding:
".. .bring it to me now or everybody could take a week in jail and please don't tell me I'm the only one that heard that .... Everyone is going to jail; every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now. If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going."
Judge Robert M. Restaino, just before sprouting horns and causing an explosion with his mind.
None of the men came forward. The proceedings continued, and as each man took the stand to answer questions about the progress of his treatment program, the judge also asked him about the cellphone. No one would fess up, so the judge ruled against them each time. For one defendant after another, Restiano revoked his release and sent him off to jail, saying:
"Ultimately when you go back there to be booked, you got to surrender what you got on you. One way or another we're going to get our hands on something."
"Don't worry, citizens, you're safe now."
Yes, you're not allowed a cellphone in jail, so by sending everyone to jail, Restaino was sure to get the offending phone. And so he sentenced them, by the dozen.
Three defendants told the judge that their jobs would be at risk if they were incarcerated. One defendant said he was supposed to be in school. Another said that he had a doctor's appointment later that might result in surgery, and yet another claimed that his mother was actually having surgery. One defendant, with previously exemplary behavior in the program, begged the judge to postpone his jailing until the following week so he could make a scheduled meeting to see his little girl. Every single one of these people, a total of 46 in all, was handcuffed and taken to the County Jail.
The guilty party was never discovered, and most of the jailed men were released the following week by a more rational judge. Still, Judge Restaino had solidified his reputation as a man who would not take one ounce of shit from a noisy cellphone.
Even if it did cost him his job.
Rock-Paper-Scissors for Justice
Most witness testimony doesn't happen in a dramatic confrontation on the witness stand -- it's done months before trial, in some neutral location with both lawyers present. But as you can imagine, picking the "neutral" location can be a contentious issue, as with everything else in a lawsuit.
The lawyers are supposed to work this out among themselves, but in the case of Avista Management v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance, they couldn't agree, so they asked the court to pick one for them. That's an easy way to piss off a judge, since this is supposed to be routine. It's basically like a couple of employees each refusing to put paper in the copier because they insist it's the other one's turn, and demanding the boss decide.
Unfortunately, their boss is a world-class smartass.
Judge Gregory A. Presnell, eager to demonstrate just how much of his fucking time they were wasting, ordered that the lawyers:
"... shall meet on the front steps of the Courthouse .... At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of 'rock, paper, scissors.' The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006."
"The loser shall eat one (1) handful of my shit."
Perhaps they were embarrassed by the order, or perhaps they were both unsure of their skills as rock-paper-scissors combatants, but the two lawyers quickly decided upon a suitable location, making the game unnecessary. However, they still had to formally ask the judge to call the game off, as his little joke was now an official order. Had they not gone through with the game, they both could have been held in contempt of court and, if the judge felt like it, tossed in jail.
"We're about to play a little game I like to call rock-paper-dick."
The Most Sarcastic Judge on Earth
"Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers ..."
The only conversations that start out this way are break-ups and firings, so when a judge uses this to begin his disposition, you can only assume that what follows is going to be rough.
"... who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston."
We're pretty sure that left a physical mark on their asses.
It would appear that Judge Samuel Kent had dealt with these clowns before and was thoroughly tired of their bullshit. Whatever these lawyers had done in the past, this case was clearly the final straw, and Kent's disapproval came pouring out in a scathing judicial opinion that will no doubt haunt them for the rest of their careers like a disenfranchised poltergeist.
"Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact -- complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words -- to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed."
We hate to steal from Friday, but DAAAAAAAMN!
"... the Court commends Plaintiff for his vastly improved choice of crayon -- Brick Red is much easier on the eyes than Goldenrod, and stands out much better amidst the mustard splotched about Plaintiff's briefing. But at the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig .... It is well known around these parts that [Defendant's] lawyer is equally likable and has been writing crisply in ink since the second grade. Some old timers even spin yarns of an ability to type."
The case itself, by the way, turned out to be pointless -- it was finally determined that no suit could be filed at all because the plaintiff waited longer than two years to sue and exceeded the statute of limitations. Had either of the lawyers merely looked at a calendar, they could have both been spared several pages of condescending humiliation. And trust us, it goes on and on.
"Go ahead and clear your schedules, guys, because I'm not even close to finished."
"After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented. Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties' briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter."
Judges Write Poems, Fantasy Epics
It would seem sometimes that certain judges missed their true calling in life and would rather be presiding over a community of like-minded introspective artistes, spreading their creative wings toward important new horizons of self-expression.
But dancing out the terms of a settlement is kind of hard.
These aspirations occasionally bleed through into their professional work, such as in this case about a truck crashing into a tree that garnered the following poetic ruling:
We thought that we would never see
A suit to compensate a tree.
A suit whose claim in tort is prest
Upon a mangled tree's behest;
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
Against a Chevy's crumpled crest;
A tree that faces each new day
With bark and limb in disarray;
A tree that may forever bear
A lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
We must uphold the court's decree.
He then turned himself to stone so he could be frozen in mid "Suck it" for all of eternity.
You might be saying, "So some goose-fucking insane judge wrote a poem once, big deal." And normally we would totally agree with you, but when it happens dozens of times with different judges in different jurisdictions, you start to wonder just how much of the judicial system is made up of creative-writing majors who had to go to law school when their parents quit paying their rent. Have a taste:
United States v. Batson, 782 F.2d 1307 (5th Cir. 1986)
Some farmers from Gaines had a plan.
It amounted to quite a big scam.
But the payments for cotton
began to smell rotten.
T'was a mugging of poor Uncle Sam ...
"The court finds you ... served."
United States v. One 1976 Ford F-150 Pickup, 599 F. Supp. 818
The defendant herein is a truck
The vehicle is a pick-up,
Alleged by a Fed
To be found in a bed
Of marijuana, caught in the muck.
Joe Hand Promotions v. Sports Page Caf, 940 F. Supp. 102 (D.N.J. 1996)
Defendants allegedly exhibited the match
In their respective taverns for their patrons to catch.
Plaintiff's complaint is based on that section
Installed in the Code for easy inspection
Which forbids such transmissions, recorded or live:
47 U.S.C. Section 605.
Oh, DAMN, would you like some side with those burns?
Mackensworth v. American Trading Transportation Co., 367 F. Supp. 373 (E.D. Pa. 1973)
The motion now before us has stirred up a terrible fuss.
And what is considerably worse,
It has spawned some preposterous doggerel verse.
We'll save you the trip to Google.
Some of these poems go on for over a page and, in case you forgot, are legally binding documents in our court system. And if all of this lunacy weren't enough, in the case of Vitaich v. City of Chicago the presiding judge decided poetry could suck his gavel and went straight Tolkien on everyone's ass:
"Around the witching hour our two princes crossed the threshold of the establishment into the moonless night. The princes and the palace's draughtsman exchanged vulgar calumnies as they left. Of a sudden, the princes were set upon by the three of the Dreaded Wearers of the Blue [i.e., police officers] known commonly as Cole, Ignowski and Ogliore. The princes suffered unmentionable tortures at the hands of these rabid beasts. Prince Vitaich attempted to escape on his trusty steed "Harley" but a masked Blue Wearer felled the steed, trapping Sir Vitaich (of Virginia) under it and causing him great pain and anguish."
They were sentenced to 1d20 months in jail.
Man Sues Satan, God
Sometimes a lawsuit is so ridiculous it makes the judge want to climb the bench and hit the plaintiff with a sternum-crushing flying elbow like Macho Man Randy Savage.
Unfortunately, until someone invents a writ of You Motherfuckers Can't Be Serious (or its Latin equivalent), judges usually have to dismiss the crazies with the same calm sobriety they use in real, actual cases. Like in this case, when a man in Pennsylvania attempted to sue the Devil for infringing on his personal rights.
Oh, don't act like you didn't love it.
"We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district .... The plaintiff has failed to include ... instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process."
That's right, Satan has no address and hell does not fall within the jurisdiction of the State of Pennsylvania. That's the reason that the court was required to give for dismissing the lawsuit -- Satan couldn't be properly served. And to be fair, there probably aren't too many process servers that would make the trip to hell.
"Um, maybe just tack it to his door, huh Gary?"
Of course, the system can't play favorites, so when a Nebraska State Senator tried to sue God, ordering the Almighty to "cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats," the court had to dismiss the case on similar grounds, saying:
"... this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant."
Besides, God rarely associates with lawyers.