HUMOR

The Judge’s Daughter: Justice Is Served

By Pamela Buchmeyer

 

The Federal Courts


I love my quirky cookbook Justice is Served, published as a 1988 fundraiser for the University of Wyoming Law Library. The recipes were donated by faculty, alums, and law librarians, and some sound deliciously funny: Collateral Curry Vegetable Dip, Prima Facie Primavera Salad, Harvard Beets (canned beets warmed up with a dash of vinegar), and Res Ipsa Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I picked it up in a used bookstore, but I have no real connection with Wyoming—other than I once confiscated a fake ID from my Texas teenager and it was a Wyoming driver’s license. My miscreant child did deserve a little credit. She’d memorized Wyoming facts just in case she was ever grilled by a suspicious police officer … or mother. (The Wyoming state bird is the western meadowlark.)

The blending of food and law must be a fascinating topic because two cookbooks have been published featuring the U.S. Supreme Court! Table for 9, by Clare Cushman, and Chef Supreme, created by the spouses of the Supreme Court justices as a tribute to the late tax professor and gifted cook Martin Ginsburg, spouse of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Read on to learn more.

As always, this column is a tribute to my late father, Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, who for 28 years wrote a legal humor column for the Texas Bar Journal. Dad couldn’t cook, but he did have a passion for Marie Calendar frozen potpies and for the Dallas coffee shop Legal Grounds—sadly no longer percolating. Bon appétit!



Dining Room Deposition, Woof!

Judge Harvey Bartle III, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, recently ordered plaintiff’s counsel to stop holding depositions in his dining room, as reported by Joe Patrice, of Above the Law, on February 15, 2019. Apparently, the dining room was open to the kitchen and living room and depositions were interrupted by family phone calls, by cooking smells, by persons walking into the dining room with questions (or a request for the court reporter to move a car), and by repeated dog barks, not to mention the banging of the doggie door located directly behind the witnesses’ chair. Joe and I imagine the official record thusly:

Plaintiff’s counsel: We’re back on the record.
Defense counsel (to witness): On the night in question, where were you—
Plaintiff’s counsel’s wife: Hon, did you take out the garbage?
Plaintiff’s counsel: What?
Defense counsel: Excuse me, I’m trying to ask where the witness was—
Plaintiff’s counsel’s wife: Hon, the garbage?
Plaintiff’s counsel: Not yet. I thought that was Wednesday.
Witness: Where was I on Wednesday?
Defense counsel: No, if we could just have a little quiet—
Plaintiff’s counsel’s child: Dad, can you help me with my homework?
Plaintiff’s counsel: Not now, son, can’t you see I’m busy?
Plaintiff’s dog: Woof, woof, woof.
Witness: Maybe this is a good time to mention I’m allergic to dogs.


Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the witness actually liked his dog and that he needed access to files kept in his home office. Nonetheless, Judge Bartle ruled: “Depositions … should be taken in a professional setting devoid of domestic … distractions. While plaintiff’s counsel’s dining room is undoubtedly and rightly a place of commensal conviviality and canine companionship, it’s not an acceptable forum for lawyers … There will be no more dining room depositions.”



Food Fights!

Dallas attorney Cecil C. Kuhne III is one of my favorite legal writers. He’s published several titles with American Bar Association Publishing, including The Little Book of Elvis Law and The Little Book of Foodie Law, in which he brings our attention to 18 pivotal “food fight” cases including (A) the case of the deadly mushrooms and (B) the case of the poison pen food critic.

A. Plaintiffs were mushroom enthusiasts who relied upon a mislabeled photograph in The Encyclopedia of Mushrooms and became so critically ill after harvesting and consuming some that both required liver transplants. Was the publisher strictly liable for a dangerous product? No, info in a book is not a “product” but is an expression and an idea; the publisher had no duty to investigate the accuracy of the text. Toadstool lovers beware!1

B. World-famous New York restaurant Mr. Chow was furious when a French food critic known for his acerbic style wrote a blistering review saying Mr. Chow’s waiters were Italian, the green peppers arrived frozen, the chicken was rubbery, the dumplings tasted like bad ravioli, and the rice was “totally insipid.” Mr. Chow sued for defamation and false statements. The appellate court found that food reviews, no matter how pernicious, are completely protected by the First Amendment; they are opinions, not facts, and hyperbole doesn’t change that.2



Cake and the Great Prison Escape

Is it just a cliché or has an inmate ever broken out of prison using a file baked inside a cake? It’s true, according to the Smithsonian. The earliest reported “cake break” was in 1804 when William Blewitt, an accomplished pickpocket awaiting transport on a prison ship, ratted out his fellow felons who’d received gingerbread cakes loaded with an extra special filling—tools and saws.

In 1906, a prison warden allowed inmate Charlie Howard to marry his sweetheart and the bride was clever enough to bring along her own wedding cake. After partaking in the wedding merriment, the warden and guards fell asleep, whereupon the newly married couple used saws baked inside the cake to escape.

Another inmate incarcerated in Los Angeles in 1909 was not as lucky. F.J. Humley was awaiting trial on a forgery charge when he received two cakes from a friend, one with white icing and one with chocolate. An alert sheriff intercepted the baked goods and found them to be unusually heavy because each contained half of a .38-caliber revolver plus ammunition. The friendly baker had hoped to free Humley so the two could travel to Mexico and sell opium. Folsom State Prison instead became their destination.



Legal Eats

Atlanta attorney Flavia Joyce Tuzza has a cookbook, LegalEats: a Lawyer’s Lite Cookbook, which she’s written for “lean and mean legal types.” She cleverly calls her chapters Opening Statements (appetizers), Side Bars (side dishes), Main Arguments (entrées), and Closing Statements (desserts). Tuzza might just inspire your next firm party! See her recipes for: Habeas Hummus, Counsel’s Crab Cakes, Search and Seizure Salad, Squash Subpoena Soup, Fiduciary Fish Fillets, Lawyer’s Linguine, the Bench’s Biscotti, and Fee Simple Fudge Cake.



Table for 9

The giftshop for the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society is selling two cookbooks! One I’m looking forward to purchasing, Chef Supreme, and one I own already, Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes—it’s fascinating. With a foreword by Justice Ginsburg, the cookbook includes behind-the-scenes photographs, stories, recipes, and documents from the earliest days of the court through the present, including info about:

  • Pig Knuckles—Justice Wiley B. Rutledge specifically requested some for a 1943 luncheon although they’re no longer on the menu at the Supreme Court cafeteria (handwritten doc pictured).

  • Venison Stew—Martin Ginsburg provided several recipes including Venison Stew based on game provided by Justice Antonin Scalia, who also took Justice Elena Kagan bird hunting—she did so in order to learn more about the Second Amendment as she’d never shot a gun before.

  • Maryland Crab Soup—Justice Thurgood Marshall was taught to cook by his grandmother and he worked as a baker at a campus eatery in order to pay part of his college costs. He contributed a recipe from the Gibson Island Club, a private retreat for the well heeled, where the justice worked during summer breaks from law school.

  • Charoset for Passover—Justice Arthur J. Goldberg’s handwritten recipe is pictured. As a child in Chicago, he did odd jobs including wrapping fish and selling coffee from an urn strapped to his back during Cubs baseball games.

  • English Marmalade—contributed by Louise Gorsuch, spouse of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.;

  • Deviled Almonds—a recipe from U.S. President and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

  • Chalupas and California Green Chile and Cheese Pie—Justice Sandra Day O’Connor provided a Southwestern touch with a bit of spice.

  • 13 Toasts at Fraunces Tavern—after the court’s very first session in 1790, the justices dined together and drank 13 toasts to the president, to the new national judiciary, and to “the Constitution of our Country, may it prove the solid fabric of liberty, prosperity and glory.”

 

The cookbook’s flyleaf states: “Food traditions have always been important at the Supreme Court as the Justices have purposefully sought occasions to break bread together to reinforce cordiality and cooperation.” A nice thought especially in today’s time when civility seems less present.TBJ.

 

Notes
1. Wonder v. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 938 F.2d 1033 (9th Cir. 1991).

2. Mr. Chow of N.Y. v. Ste. Jour Azur S.A., 759 F.2d (2d Cir. 1985).

 
Pamela Buchmeyer

PAMELA BUCHMEYER is an attorney and award-winning writer who lives in Dallas and Jupiter, Florida. Her work-in-progress is a humorous murder mystery, The Judge’s Daughter. She can be contacted at pambuchmeyer@gmail.com.

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