A Time for Jokes

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Not long ago, Slate ran a wonderful article on 8 awful uses of humor in Courts of Law. However, the failed to include one bot mot from Justice Scalia, reportedly the funniest sitting justice. Here now, a summary of their punchlines:

The Robert Zimmerman trial

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Zimmerman.

Zimmerman who?

OK, you’re good for the jury.

(Note this routine was delivered entirely by Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Donald West.)

Roe v. Wade

It’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they are going to have the last word.

Haluck v. Ricoh Electronics, Inc.

MR. CALLAHAN: Have you ever heard of The Twilight Zone?

WITNESS: Yes sir.

MR. CALLAHAN: Goes kind of like this, do do, do do. . . . You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind, a journey into a wondrous land, whose boundaries are that of imagination; that’s a sign post up ahead, your next stop, The Twilight Zone.  “Do do, do do. Do do, do do.” (sung aloud and repeatedly)

Glickman v. Wileman Brothers & Elliot

Attorney Thomas Campagne’s oral argument leading to a losing 5-4 loss in front of the Supreme Court and a lawsuit for malpractice which included such gems as:

Urging Justice Antonin Scalia not to buy green plums because “you don’t want to give your wife diarrhea.”

Announcing that, “We’re not going to advertise to people and change our message that we want you to eat worms.”

People v. Davis

Using the bathroom during a courtroom break, one defendant noticed a juror at the urinal and jokingly announced, “Vote for me!” The juror reported the joke to the judge, leading to additional criminal charges, and an eventual conviction for attempting to influence a juror.

People v. Monterroso

In one California death penalty case, the judge joked that any jurors caught discussing the case inappropriately would be shot. The defendant claimed on appeal that this joke diminished the seriousness of the death penalty in the juror’s minds.

People v. Melton

One defense attorney was attempting to describe a hypothetical scenario in which he shot another defense attorney:

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: …if I were now to harm, shoot someone, Mr. Strople here, if I shot him right now—

COURT: Permission granted.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That might be justified—

COURT: Mr. Strople is a public defender, for the record.

On appeal, the death row inmate claimed that this joke revealed the judge was biased against defense attorneys (because it is “justified” to shoot them). The appellate court agreed that the jokes were “unfortunate,” but rejected a new trial, calling the jokes “relatively brief and mild,” and noting that the defense attorneys themselves participated.

Hennepin County Judge Stephen Aldrich during a domestic violence hearing

I’ve been married 45 years. We’ve never considered divorce, a few times murder maybe.

Former Baltimore County Judge Bruce Lamdin

“What’s the big rush to get back to Pennsylvania? It’s an ugly state.”

When a landlord testified that her tenant’s child had called her a bitch, the judge retorted, “I’m sure that wasn’t the first time someone called you a bitch.”

Responding to a mother with a crying baby, he declared: “If she only knew how much I hate kids, she would not have brought that kid in here today.”

Lamdin then mused to his courtroom that “we [already] confiscate cell phones and we put the cell phones in plastic bags and send them down to Annapolis. I suggested maybe we ought to do the same with children except poke holes in the bag. . . . We ordered some plastic bags about five feet tall but they haven’t been – they haven’t come in yet.”

When a man with the last name Crook pled guilty to driving without a license and possessing drug paraphernalia, the judge demanded, “Why did you drive so poorly? Smoke a little weed before you got behind the wheel?  . . . Smoke a little crack before you got behind the wheel?  . . . Well, you’ve got the appropriate last name…  All right crack head, Crook.”

In a court hearing on prostitution, Lamdin performed an imitation of ghetto-talk. (The transcript reads much like when The Office’s Michael Scott got in trouble for reenacting a racially-charged Chris Rock routine.) “Who put up your bond money for you, your pimp? . . . If I were to release you, you’d be scratching that itch tonight. . . . Ma’am, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.”

Via Salon.

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