Even Judges (or their clerks, at least) have sense of humor. But, writing a opinion about another nasty divorce, deadly car accident, or thieving attorney is rarely the opportunity those Judges get to show it. To most legal readers, an appeals decision is just an opportunity to learn about new law or sort how the Court of Appeals will deal with a specific fact pattern.
But, because the doctrine of mootness requires an appeal to come from a trial level case with actual real-life stakes, an appeals decision is also a recitation of the terrible real life things that people do to each other, whether intentional or otherwise. The last thing any litigant wants to do is read an appeals court Judge’s ruling mocking them or their choices. That’s why you’ll never see an appeals decision that says “Conviction affirmed. May a plague of angry bees now descend upon your genitals, you jerk.” Totes not appropriate.
As an aside, I’m dissatisfied with our current lol-speak alternatives for appropriate. I am all-in on totes, but appropes doesn’t work at all. Can someone find a hipster with a beard to sort this out for me? I’m too old and tired to figure it out myself, particularly since I spent so much time this year helping to push “rando” into the lexicon. Reinventing English is hard work.
Back to my point. Every now and then, the Court gives us just a hint–just the slightest little wink, to remind us that they are in on the joke. And to commemorate that fact, I give you my newest blog installment, footnotes of note, wherein I dissect one of these little gems so that we all may share in the nihilistic joy of a life in the law.
And yes, I know I buried the lead of this post in the last sentence of the fourth paragraph. And yes, I know this is my second aside in five paragraphs. It’s meh blurg, I do wha I wernt.
So, without further ado, here’s the gem of a footnote from the Court of Appeals that I conveniently skipped over when I did the one-sentence case law review from Harrison v. State.
“In fact,“Bam Bam”is the name of a lovable, exceptionally strong infant character on the animated series “The Flintstones.” See http://flintstones.wikia.com/wiki/Bamm-Bamm_Rubble; http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0000639/.”
I hope you are wondering how this ended up in a legal opinion. The answer is long, but hopefully enjoyable.
Harrison had a meth lab in his car on the side of road. The police stopped nearby and saw him and the car. Harrison threw the car in reverse, crashed it into a ditch, and fled on foot. The police didn’t catch him, so the entire day wasn’t a complete failure.
Another quick aside: I used to wonder why people run from the police, because it always seems to end badly. Then it occurred to me: it doesn’t always end badly. Sometimes they get away. I used to wonder why people shoplift so much too, before I reached the same conclusion: sometimes it works.
At trial Harrison claimed to have an alibi. As a result, many jail phone calls were reviewed and the alibi witness’ inconsistent statements were played, including some calls where the Defendant or other people identified him as “Bam” or “Bam Bam.” He claimed on appeal that allowing his nickname into evidence was not probative and unfairly prejudicial. But the Court rejected the argument, because, among other things, being nicknamed “Bam Bam” is not prejudicial. Essentially, the law in Indiana now says there’s nothing wrong with being nicknamed “Bam Bam.”
I presume the analysis would have been different if Harrison’s nickname was “methhead.”
I’m also surprised, from a public policy standpoint, that the Court was willing to wade into the sticky morass of nicknaming. Essentially, the Court’s ruling that admitting tame nicknames is okay only encourages people to use more terrible nicknames. If your nickname is pebbles, that fact is coming into evidence against you, but if your nickname is “mass murderer,” it’s probably a different story. So, the moral of this story is find a really awful sounding nickname for yourself.
Also, I am somewhat surprised to see that wikipedia, which can usually be edited by anyone at anytime with little effort, is now authoritative enough to be cited by a court of law. Sure, it’s the type of precedent citation that no one will ever dispute, but still, wikipedia?
In addition, what’s up with wikipedia’s spelling it “Bamm Bamm.” Four M’s? That seems excessive. And who gets to decide how these things are spelled anyway? I’m sorry, but now my digressions are digressing.
As a final aside, I take a small amount of umbrage at the Court’s notion that Bam Bam was a lovable character on the Flintstones. It’s been awhile since I saw it, but my recollection is that he was basically the cartoon version of the 2 year old who goes around punching people in the nuts. Entertaining in small doses? Sure. Lovable? Not so much. Dino was lovable. Bam Bam was a jerk. Fortunately, 3 year old me didn’t need the Court of Appeals to adjudicate that.