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2008 Top Five List

It seems every media outlet and blogger is trotting out a top ten list for 2008. The “Top Ten News Stories of 2008.” The “Top Ten Celebrity Meltdowns of 2008.” Even the “Top Ten Douchebags of 2008.”

The Alaska Law Blog has to get in on this action. But there is no way I have the time to put together a list with ten things on it. So I’ve pared it back to just five entries. Hey, you get what you pay for. In this case, you only paid for a half-assed top ten list and that is exactly what you’re getting.

So, here are the top five law-related items of riveting interest for 2008:

No. 5: A contributor to the Alaska Law Blog provides weekly updates on Alaska Supreme Court decisions. Except that it turns out the weekly updates actually come out maybe once or twice a year. (You didn’t think I was going to make a top five list and leave us off of it, did you?)

No. 4: Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson sues his local dry cleaner for $67 million because they lost a pair of his pants. Alas, Judge Pearson did not prevail on his claim that the sign “Satisfaction Guaranteed” meant the dry cleaner had to pay him whatever he asked for the lost pants. The court said “Satisfaction Guaranteed” established a reasonable man standard, not a subjective standard. (Where have we read that before?)

This news item could be more appropriately titled: “The Judge Is An Ass, Or Does This Lawsuit Make My Butt Look Big?” There was a lot of testimony at trial about Judge Pearson’s pants having three elastic waistband inserts sewn into them.

learnedhand.jpgNo. 3: Know your Learned Foote from your Learned Hand. This WSJ Blog story from earlier this month just warmed the cockles of my wizened heart. Some years back a guy named Fred Foote went to Harvard Law School. In Torts class one day they discussed a decision by New York Judge Learned Hand. Fred was so impressed that right then and there he decided to name his first born son “Learned” after the judge. Many years later, despite having plenty of time to sober up, Fred followed through on this vow. Fred’s son, Learned Foote, is now an undergraduate student at Columbia University, but young Learned is being coy about whether he’ll go on to law school.

No. 2: The U.S. Supreme Court does not appoint the next President. In some countries, the elections are rigged and the results are pre-ordained. Soviet satellites, banana republics, and African dictatorships all have had the benefit of free and open elections, as long as the vote of the people did not really count. We should be grateful that the U.S. is not one of those countries, . . . or at least it has not been one since the last change of power in Washington.

We can only hope that the Court has learned from past mistakes. This year the Court actually had the chance to take a case seeking to overturn Barack Obama’s election. The lawsuit alleged Obama wasn’t a natural-born citizen because his father was a Kenyan, which only made him half-American. In contrast, the paintiff who brought the case was a full natural-born American, yet still seemingly a half-wit. The Court declined to accept the case.

No. 1: Mrs. Palin went to Washington. Whether you think Governor Sarah Palin is the second coming of Ronald Reagan or Dan Quayle, you gotta admit she’s good for lawyers. We had a late summer blitzkrieg of lawsuits and administrative proceedings over Troopergate. These more or less boiled to do how much Sarah was pulling the strings to control her husband Todd. Two respected members of the Anchorage bar reached exactly opposite conclusions on the matter. All of this was fine. Except then they screwed up by not hiring a third lawyer to break the deadlock, which it seems to me is what you want to have happen when full employment for lawyers is the goal.

As it was, they left the whole thing as a tie. This gave the affair the flavor of a stylized Kabuki theater production. All fancy dress, prancing around, and a screeching soundtrack, with the actual plot a secondary consideration.