December 23, 2010

No Kosher For You!

‘Tis the season, all right. The season for a whole banker's box full of Alaska law-related proceedings and topics, any one of which would be worthy of deep analysis and serious discussion in a blog posting.

We’ve got the Alaska Supreme Court rejecting Joe Miller’s challenge to the State’s vote counting. Sad to say this likely won’t be last of the saga as Mr. Miller and crew will no doubt head back to Judge Beistline in federal court to make another run at constitutional claims. You know, Bush v. Gore stuff. (Anyone remember that case? According to the commentators, the U.S. Supreme Court seemingly does not.) In my view, Joe is earning his new title: Joe Miller, R – LaMancha.

FestivusPole.jpegThen there is the self-appointed head of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia going into court in Fairbanks. Although the guy was there on a weapons related charge, he sought to turn the tables by serving papers on the judge to charge the judge with a crime. The judge wisely set a trial date quickly, gaveled the proceedings to an end, and ducked out the back. A recent article in the Anchorage Press described the militia members’ off-kilter philosophy.

And we’ve got the still brewing fight over the SBA’s 8(a) program that is designed to benefit Alaska Native corporations (among others). A recent article by ProPublica raised some issues about how the program actually worked out in one particular instance. This is unfortunately going to be used by the 8(a) opponents in Congress to try to end the program, or at least end the special rules for Native corporations who are in it. And I expect that, when Murcowski, Leeza (come on, Joe, you know who I mean) stands up to defend the program in Congress, we are going to see another allegation from The Alaska Standard that she has been bought and paid for by the Native corporations. (But I don’t know what they will say about Begitch, Mack and Yung, Dan, when they also inevitably defend the program.)

The truth, however, is that I don’t want to write a blog post about any of these serious topics. After all, this is the 2010 gala holiday edition of the Alaska Law Blog. For this blog posting I’m in the mood for something uplifting and lawyer-affirming.

Which brings me to this bit of positive news. A lawyer in California did an invaluable service to his client by citing the judge to an old Seinfeld rerun. It seems the client was locked up in the clink but did not care for the salami sandwiches the good jailer was serving. The client was a healthy lifestyle kind of guy (aside from the jail problem), and he wanted better nutrition in the form of kosher meals that were available to Jewish prisoners. The judge was sympathetic to the prisoner – amazing in itself – but pointed out that the client was not actually Jewish. The client offered the religion of “Healthism” as an alternative, but the judge rejected this because even he recognized it was made up on the spot. At this point the lawyer spoke up to offer “Festivus,” the non-denominational holiday that was the subject of a Seinfeld episode some years back. The judge accepted this suggestion as a legally sufficient "religion" to justify ordering the jailer to provide kosher meals to the client. (At least, the jailer had to do so until the client was shifted to the federal gaol a short while later for immigration violations and likely deportation.)

So there we have it. A lawyer down in the trenches using his wits and many years of fine education to serve his client in need by reminding the judge of something he saw on TV years ago. (“Festivus” even sort sounds like it’s Latin.) What could be more heart-warming than that?

Now, the fact this court hearing took place back in October, but the story did not hit the papers until just a few days ago, that I can only attribute to a “Festivus miracle.”