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VOL. 36 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 07, 2012

‘Little Thunder Jim’ caught in the heat of passion

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This week I continue on the theme of quotable cases straight from “the record,” meaning stuff filed and/or said in courts around the world:

In 1980, a complaint filed in a rural Arkansas jurisdiction alleged that the defendant had “willfully and without provocation” shot and killed the plaintiff’s “Tree Walker hunting dog named Little Thunder Jim.” Damages of $10,000 were sought. In his answer, the defendant asserted:

“Little Thunder Jim was an uninvited intruder on defendant’s homestead and had repeatedly been told to leave. Little Thunder Jim, at the time of the incident, was standing over and attempting to molest a small female, whose name is Baby, that resides at defendant’s homestead. Defendant claims the right to protect all females on his homestead from unwanted suitors. Defendant admits that the resident female may have led Little Thunder Jim, and others like him, to believe that Baby was a loose female; however, defendant denies that Baby was loose enough for the likes of Little Thunder Jim.”

In another case, the plaintiff amended his complaint to add a party defendant after receiving a motion for summary judgment.

Defense counsel then filed a pleading that included this: “Apparently, plaintiff did finally decide to make allegations against the only party possibly at fault, however reluctantly.”

That apparently got someone’s attention, as the next pleading read as follows, in its entirety: “The undersigned, one of the lawyers for the Plaintiff, opines that the last sentence in the first paragraph of the Reply to Plaintiff’s Response to Motion for Summary Judgment is rather snippy.”

We’ll conclude this series with a few instances of children teaching judges and lawyers lessons in the courtroom:

Q: Johnny, I’m going to ask you some questions now, and I want all of your answers to be oral, okay?

A: OK

Q: What school do you go to?

A: Oral

Q: What grade are you in?

A: Oral

•••

Q: Now, Bobby, if we let you swear on the Bible to tell the truth and then you tell a lie, do you know what would happen to you?

A: Yes, sir. I’d be kicked out of Cub Scouts.

•••

Q: Henry, do you remember what I told you about testifying today, about being on the witness stand?

A: Yes

Q: What did I tell you was the most important thing to do?

A: To sit up straight

•••

Judge: Now, then, young man, do you attend church or Sunday school?

A: No, sir

Judge: Do your parents have a Bible in the house?

A: No, sir

Judge: Do you know who God is?

A: I don’t think so.

Judge: Do you mean that you don’t know who created the universe?

A: (Long pause) You?

•••

Judge: Jenny, do you know what happens if you tell a lie in court?

A: Yes, sir. You go to hell.

Judge: Is that all?

A: Well, isn’t that enough?

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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