A couple of favorite quotes from judicial opinions


I was recently reminded of a pair of quotes from actual, published opinions in cases. I found them amusing.

The first comes from Judge Alex Kozinsky of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals's opinion in the case of Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc. This is the case from a few years back where Mattel sued MCA for trademark infringement over the Aqua song "Barbie Girl." Kozinsky concludes his opinion with Section VI, which I consider to be quintessentially Californian:

After Mattel filed suit, Mattel and MCA employees traded barbs in the press. When an MCA spokeswoman noted that each album included a disclaimer saying that Barbie Girl was a “social commentary [that was] not created or approved by the makers of the doll,” a Mattel representative responded by saying, “That’s unacceptable. . . . It’s akin to a bank robber handing a note of apology to a teller during a heist. [It n]either diminishes the severity of the crime, nor does it make it legal.” He later characterized the song as a “theft” of “another company’s property.”

MCA filed a counterclaim for defamation based on the Mattel representative’s use of the words “bank robber,” “heist,” “crime” and “theft.” But all of these are variants of the invective most often hurled at accused infringers, namely “piracy.” No one hearing this accusation understands intellectual property owners to be saying that infringers are nautical cuttthroats with eyepatches and peg legs who board galleons to plunder cargo. In context, all these terms are nonactionable “rhetorical hyperbole,” Gilbrook v. City of Westminster, 177 F.3d 839, 863 (9th Cir. 1999). The parties are advised to chill.

My favorite footnote of all times comes from U.S. v. Murphy, in a decision by Judge Terence T. Evans.

On the evening of May 29, 2003, Hayden was smoking crack with three other folks at a trailer park home on Chain of Rocks Road in Granite City, Illinois. Murphy, Sr., who had sold drugs to Hayden several years earlier, showed up later that night. He was friendly at first, but he soon called Hayden a "snitch bitch hoe".1

1The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch "hoe." A "hoe," of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing "hoe" to "ho," a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps "You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies."


Have you had Kremen v. Cohen in Torts? It's another Kozinksy decision, for a case where one Cohen obtained the domain name sex.com by fraud, created an online porno empire, and fled across the border. The sad sack who originally held the address, Kremen, sued the address registrar for lost profits.

Kozinsky scores points off the two sordid parties through the entire decision, but something about the dryness of this line appeals to me:

"Cohen is obviously the guilty party here, and the one who should in all fairness pay for his theft. But he's skipped the country, and his money is stashed in some offshore bank account. Unless Kremen's luck with his bounty hunters improves, Cohen is out of the picture."

Hmm. Like too many jokes, this one works better in context. Still, the point remains: first-year classes should rely more heavily on Kozinksy opinions.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 27, 2005 4:35 PM.

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