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A new book by British humor scholar Christie Davies (via Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal) has a discussion of lawyer jokes, which, Davies says, surged in the 1980s in America in a way not seen in other countries:

…American attorneys in the late Twentieth Century who felt offended by lawyer jokes were trapped, because the television writers and their bosses did not care about the possible hurt feelings of individual lawyers, who for them did not matter, and lawyers’ organizations (which did have power) were only concerned with using television to manipulate public opinion about far more important questions. The rightly saw jokes as utterly insignificant by comparison. The only exception I know happened not in contemporary America but in Britain in the late 1940s, when a senior person from the Law Society was able to persuade the BBC to stop comedians from telling jokes about solicitors (attorneys) who absconded with their clients’ money. The deal was done quietly in that sly, behind-the-scenes British way, paradoxically known as a gentleman’s agreement….

[After rejecting as unreasonable the views of a Pennsylvania lawyer who finds in some American lawyer jokes an "invitation to genocide":] Likewise, we may dismiss the thesis popular among lawyers that the jokes originated with big corporations, who had them invented to assist in their campaigns against being sued for damages…. jokes belong to the people… they cannot be created by decree, nor can they successfully be repressed…. They are not a thermostat, but they are a thermometer.

What happened in the 1980s especially that might have touched off a popular American interest in lawyer jokes? It’s a mystery! The book can be purchased here, while more about its author is here; David Conway wrote a review for Law and Liberty in 2012, as we noted. (& welcome Above the Law readers)


The humorist speaks out on the now-famous amicus filing: “Cato did not ask me to write their brief for the same reason that you do not ask me to perform your appendectomy. … I was asked to read it and give it my endorsement because I am an expert on being run out of Ohio. Ask my mother.” He goes on to give Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus kinder treatment than he does President William Howard Taft. [Daily Beast, earlier, the brief in Susan B. Anthony List v. Steven Driehaus, more on case from SCOTUSBlog]


Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Daniel Muessig has set the bar high [Deadspin] More: Scott Greenfield, and yet more about whether criminal defense lawyers really do those things.


It’s actually on a serious subject: can a state (Ohio) purport to ban false, exaggerated or “truthy” speech about candidates, or does that impermissibly chill speech protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment? My colleagues Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Gabriel Latner co-authored it on behalf of political humorist/Cato fellow P.J. O’Rourke in the pending SCOTUS case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Read it here, alongside Ilya Shapiro’s summary, and here’s David Lat of Above the Law calling it the “Best Amicus Brief Ever.


We’ve mentioned Ian Frazier’s classic humor piece on the product liability suit filed by the hapless Wile E. Coyote against the Acme Corporation, purveyor of perennially disappointing bombs, anvils, rocket sleds, and other contraptions. Now “Pentagram’s Daniel Weil has reimagined designs for five of these gadgets, rendered as a series of highly detailed technical diagrams.” One reason the failure-to-warn element of the suit may be shaky: “The Coyote, like most males, never reads the instructions.” [Pentagram]

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I have a nomination over at Cato at Liberty.

Whence Congress enacted and President Obama signed the NOEL law (Naughtiness Obliteration and Elimination Law of 2012):

…(1) Imposes a naughtiness “fee” of $50 upon each American child for every documented instance of their “naughtiness.” Revenues from this “fee” are to support the Federal Nice Fund (FNF), a newly created fund for public-works projects in NOEL-compliant states. (NOEL, § 3(a).)…

(4) To ensure full compliance, the NOEL bars any “person, group, or agency” that receives “funding, or any benefit from the federal government” from making a “material naughtiness determination” contrary to rules promulgated by the NRB, with the consequence of such a contrary determination being withdrawal of the federal funding and/or other benefit. (Id., § 22(z)(12)(F)(vii)(¥)(‰) (LOL)(¿)(?)(D).)…

Relax. It’s not real (yet). It’s just Prof. Kyle Graham’s constitutional law exam holiday card.

Kevin from Lowering the Bar has a new book out on odd laws (more on how to buy it).

Clawback provision

by Walter Olson on October 31, 2013

“South Dakota v. Fifteen Impounded Cats” is one of those fairly common in rem cases with an amusing caption. Would you really be surprised if the cats won? [Lowering the Bar, which has the best list I've seen of comical case names]

P.S. On a more serious note, many of these cases are attempted forfeitures with the associated due process problems [The Economist]

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Shady lawyer character Saul Goodman, played by actor Bob Odenkirk, was so popular with viewers that he’s getting his own prequel [, Guardian, L.A. Times, BuzzFeed] AMC’s joke website is worth a click, but be warned that it auto-plays an audio (which touts, among other things, a two-for-one misdemeanor shoplifting defense).

“Bob Odenkirk, who portrays Breaking Bad’s resident shyster Saul Goodman with gleeful shamelessness…. [sits] down with Vulture’s own Julie Klausner to get his thoughts on some of the country’s best so-bad-they’re-good lawyer ads.” [Vulture]


It seems I’m Justice Stephen Breyer. [humor, Kyle Graham]


In the South, a wedding engagement gone sadly wrong leads to a compulsively readable opinion by Judge William Pryor for an Eleventh Circuit panel, complete with reference to the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. [Myers v. Bowman, PDF; summary judgment affirmed against civil rights claim](bad link fixed now)


Given the bossiness of the legislature in Annapolis these days, I had to check the calendar on this one. [Anita Park, Greater Greater Washington, April 1]

P.S. And from The Onion, where every day is April 1: “Mississippi Bans Soft Drinks Smaller Than 20 Ounces.

Yet more: Didn’t Ilya Shapiro predict this? “Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage as a tax” [Tax Foundation]


Instead of litigation or other varieties of dispute resolution that might leave hard feelings, why not try arm wrestling, a coin flip, drawing straws, or rock-paper-scissors? [Cracked] Earlier here.


January 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 20, 2013

  • I’m in today’s NYT Book Review reviewing “Foundation,” Peter Ackroyd’s new book on English history up to the Tudors [NYT]
  • Stanford Law School launches religious liberty clinic [Karen Sloan, NLJ] AALS panel on “The Freedom of the Church” [Rick Garnett, Prawfs]
  • Party in breach, nasssty thief, we hates it forever: lawyer parses Hobbit’s Bilbo-dwarves contract [James Daily, Wired]
  • To pay for roads, vehicle-mile fees > gas tax, but either > general sales tax, argues Randal O’Toole [Cato at Liberty]
  • Steven Teles on the high cost of opaque, complex and indirect government action [New America via Reihan Salam]
  • I’ve given a blurb to Mark White’s forthcoming nudging-back book on behavioral economics, “The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism” [Amazon]
  • “Internet-Use Disorder: The Newest Disability?” [Jon Hyman]

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October 31 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 31, 2012


Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 25, 2012

  • U. Miami: “Law School Email Draws Fire Amid Hotly Contested Retention Election for 3 Top Florida Judges” [ABA Journal, earlier on election]
  • Janet Jenkins sues Liberty U. School of Law, charging assistance to custody-nappers; school describes suit as baseless [ABA Journal, earlier on Miller-Jenkins custody case]
  • “Maybe a lawprof is not what you want in a politician. And yet, Bill Clinton was a lawprof. So was Hillary Clinton. And there are different types of lawprofs. They don’t all listen, give ground, and offer complex caveats!” [Ann Althouse]
  • “Former law student became a chronic litigant” [Boston Globe]
  • Andrew Morriss on Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools [Liberty Law]
  • “Institute for Humane Studies Webcast on the Pros and Cons of Law School” [Ilya Somin]
  • Fred Rodell knew: reasons not to write law review articles [Matthew Salzwedel, Lawyerist] What a rising law professor should put in a book review [Pierre Schlag via Prof. Bainbridge]
  • Bradley C.S. Watson on law school progressivism [National Review, pay site, mentions Schools for Misrule]