For lawyers at least, it was no surprise when lawyer and senior Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner lamely blurted out,“I’m not good at math,” at last Friday’s damage-control news conference following revelations the IRS had targeted tea party groups. “Not good at math”? Among lawyers, such blinding obviousness is self-proving without an affidavit.
As for the matter of the judicial funny bone, Justice Roberts did not, however, impart his views on the subject.
Suffice it to say, though, that when it comes to judicial funnies, those who find mirth in a judicial opinion are either bone-dry law professors or sycophantic lawyers in the grip of what Max Boot calls “gavelitis” when all judicial “witticisms are suddenly hilarious.”
By deign of their vocation, the former need a footnote to source a sense of humor while the latter are necessarily compelled to react with the sincere insincerity of the employee who laughs uproariously at the boss’s bad jokes. Think I’m kidding? Try and find something to smile about — much less laugh at from Judges Say the Darndest Things: FindLaw’s List of the top ten funny, quirky or downright weird judicial decisions.
Kudos, though, to University of Louisville Law Professor Judith D. Fischer who to her immense credit of “humor in courts’ opinions,” says, “Most of its examples strike me as contrived and un-funny.”
Unlike math, humor isn’t something you learn. You can’t teach someone to be funny. Or to quote Robert Heinlein, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”
The unfunny court.
The judicial order, 35 Bar and Grille v. City of SA – Order Re Prelim Injunction Part I, begins, “An ordinance dealing with semi-nude dancers has once gain fallen on the Court’s lap.” And after a drum roll and crickets sound, it goes on from there — with references to “alleged naked grab of unconstitutional power” and an adversely impacted “bottom line” and that “the ordinance would strip them of their profits.”
To be fair, Judge Biery’s opinion managed a groan from St. Mary’s University Law Professor Michael Ariens who told the press, “I think Judge Biery’s decision is correct as a legal matter. But his opinion fails if he was attempting to be witty or attempting to write ‘tongue in cheek,’ and his use of double-entendres largely fails as humor and appears almost intended to offend.”
Also see “The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Bikini Opinion: Texas judge issues world’s cheekiest ruling.”