Power Corrupts: 4 Absurd Legal Actions by Influential People
A wise man once said that with great power comes great responsibility.
This guy, I think.
But the problem with that logic is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So if you go far enough down the line of influential people, somebody is bound to start acting like an asshole, and is going to use that power to make other people miserable.
Now, we at TCS aren't saying that everyone with a bit of power or wealth is a corrupt and awful person, but sometimes you have to wonder how some of these people got to the point they are at in their lives when they take such petty cases to court and expect not to lose any credibility they might have had.
Like the time...
A Judge Sued A Laundromat For Millions Over A Pair Of Pants
Time for a little role play.
Not that kind!
I want you to imagine, for a moment, that you have managed to impersonate a functional adult long enough to become a judge in a court of law, and that you are going to start your first day on the bench.
If it helps you get into character, consider going to kidnap a judge, harvest his skin and impersonate him for a day in order to really get a feel for what we are going for here
[Note to editor from TCS Legal Department: please remove the last paragraph. We only let him submit articles here because he is holding us hostage. This is not a joke. For the love of God, send help.]
Continuing with this thought experiment, say that you took one of your pairs of suit pants in to have them altered, so that you could look stylish on your first day on the bench. But when you get to the cleaner's, the pants were nowhere to be found.
What do you do? Would you wear another suit, and wait for the dry cleaners to find the misplaced pair? Would you ask for a reimbursement for the cost of the suit?
Or Would You Take Casual Fridays to their logical conclusion?
Perhaps none of those options appeal to you, in which case you could go the route of one District of Columbia judge by the name of Roy Pearson, who is filing a lawsuit against a dry cleaning service run by the Chungs, a Vietnamese immigrant couple, to the tune of $54 million dollars.
You might evaluate this as being considerably more than most pairs of pants are worth.
So how, exactly, did we get from a single pair of pants to a multimillion dollar claim?
Apparently, Judge Pearson takes the promises of "Satisfaction Guaranteed" quite seriously. When the pants were initially lost, he demanded $1,150 in compensation. Lawyers were called in, legal discourse occurred, and after discussion with counsel and a bit of tension from both sides, the Chungs eventually offered him a settlement of $3,000 to be done with it.
And then he fused an offer of $4,600.
And one for $12,000.
Despite the fact that the Chungs were willing to settle for the cost of a new car over a pair of $800 pants, Pearson decided to take it to court. Digging deep into the books, he calculated that their claimed failure to deliver on the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign in the store meant that they owed him $1,500 per violation.
Over a course of four years.
But because he decided the lawsuit wasn't quite ludicrous enough yet, he also decided that he was entitled to some $500,000 in "emotional damages", $524,000 in legal fees (even though he represented himself), and over ten grand in car rentals on the weekends over ten years, in order for him to take his suit to another cleaners.
So how, exactly, does he try to justify such a lawsuit? Why, by portraying himself as a protector of the people. You see, Pearson claims that he is acting as a "private attorney general" trying to protect Washington consumers, even going so far as to attempt to make it a class action lawsuit. However, it seems that his fellow judges are as fed up with him as everyone else, with the presiding judge in his case even cited as saying, "You are not a we, you are an I. You are seeking damages on your own behalf, that is all."
It would be a situation rife for comedy if it had not cost the business owners in question a considerable amount of stress and thousands of dollars in legal fees. Still, when the trial contained such events as Pearson fleeing out of the court room in tears while "questioning himself", it's difficult to take the entire proceedings seriously.
Indeed, it comes off as downright humorous - until you remember the defendants, whom he terrorized to the point that they regret immigrating in the first place.
In the end, Pearson's lawsuit cost him thousands of dollars of legal fees that he had to repay to the Chungs. But try not to feel too bad for him. He's not letting it keep him down.
But Pearson is hardly the only person who doesn't know when to let things go.
Grieving Families Are Often Sued Over The Contents of Headstones
The time shortly after the death of a loved one is never easy for anyone who has to go through it. It's a time of trial that shakes you to the core. People going through this process need understanding, support, and time to grieve.
So you better be careful what you put on the deceased's headstone! If you're not, what you get is legal dickery, bureaucracy, and a notice to bend over and grab the lube, because you are going to get shafted.
The grieving family of a Pastor's wife in Sterling, Colorado were told by the city that they could not put Jesus on the Christian woman's headstone. The city council felt "it might be considered objectionable to some due to the Christian connotation".
The reasoning behind the ruling cannot help but beg certain questions like "What the fuck?" and "No, seriously, what the fuck?"
Also, questions like:
"Has the Sterling city council heard of things like the first amendment, which protects freedom of speech and free exercise of religion?"
"What do you do about all the headstones that already have religious symbols on them?"
"What happens if the person is, in fact, named Jesus? Do they just not get their name on the headstone?"
Should headstones like this be banned because they might offend, or should we just draw a black line over the tip like in Japanese hentai?
But don't worry. This is not just some conspiracy against Christians.
The Department of Veteran Affairs refused to engrave Wiccan symbols on the headstones of veterans until it was threatened by legal action, despite there being some 1,500 practicing Wiccans in the armed forces. Now, that's hardly a large portion of the military, but still, a little respect for the wishes of the dead guys.
But hey, it's not just the wheels of bureaucracy that are giving grieving families, um, grief.
Disney threatened legal action against a stonemason if he put an engraving of Winnie the Pooh on a stillborn child’s gravestone. It is worth noting that Disney did later back down, but still, you have to wonder how exactly they thought that would pan out.
Do not misunderstand me, I get the idea of having to protect your intellectual property. But when your defendants are a set of parents who just lost their child, there is no way you come out of that looking like the good guy. Indeed, it is my professional legal opinion [Note from the TCS Legal Department: This man is not a lawyer. Please do not do anything he says] that everyone involved in the conception of this lawsuit should be punched in the dick.
In the event that any women were involved, a dick will be provided for them.
Speaking of people that could stand to be punched in the dick...
Donald Trump Sues Media Company Refusing to Broadcast Him for "Freedom of Speech" Violation
Now I know what you are thinking. “You said this article was about people. What’s Donald Trump doing here?”
Well, dear reader whose hypothetical question feeds nicely into my next joke, I said people and companies, and as a company consists of two or more individuals working towards common goals, I would argue the sentient hairpiece that controls Trump’s mouth and the wrinkly, slightly orange tinted skinbag qualify as one (legally speaking).
Anyways, now that we are done nitpicking pointless legal formalities, let us return to nitpicking pointless legal formalities!
Because if there is one thing that Trump loves more than publicity whoring, bad hair and casual racism, it might just be lawsuits. The man has sued everyone and anyone, from people that dare to call him a "mere" millionaire to people unfortunate enough to share a last name with him. Suffice it to say, it probably did not come as that much of a surprise to anyone when Trump issued a $500 million lawsuit against Spanish language television network Univision when they backed out of their contract to broadcast the Miss America and Miss Universe pageants (which Trump co-owns), after Trump made controversial remarks about Mexico during an interview.
Not even this winning smile can make up for calling a significant portion of your business partner’s target audience criminals and rapists.
What is surprising, though, is one of the claims made for the lawsuit. Trump and Co. are claiming, in addition to the breach of contract, that Univision is attempting to deny him his First Ammendment rights by refusing to air his programs. Mind you, it should be noted that certain executives in Univision have handled the conflict less than gracefully. But corporate dickery and insensitivity don't constitute an infringement on freedom of speech.
Trump is trying to claim that the revocation of his appearance was, rather than being motivated by his racist comments, "in reality, a thinly veiled attempt by Univision, a privately held company principally owned by longtime Clinton Foundation donor and current Hillary Clinton fundraiser, Haim Saban, to suppress Mr. Trump’s freedom of speech".
Not only does that imply an impressive feat in mental gymnastics, but also suggests a complete and utter ignorance of what the First Amendment is actually for. Now, I may be just a humble hyperspace chicken that doesn't have much to do with mucking around in politics, but that seems like a rather important detail to know when you are vying for the title of President of the United States.
Seriously. It’s right there at the top for a reason. That shit’s important.
The First Amendment only protects you from government attempts to control what you can say and where you can say it (see The Civil Rights Cases, Hudgens v. NLRB, and No Shit v. Sherlock). It does not mean that that anyone has to provide you with a platform on which to say it, (or in the cases of a privately owned entity such as a company, forum, household or business, allow you to stay within their premises to say it at all).
Normally I would not be driving this point home as hard as I am, but like I mentioned earlier, it is kind of important for a potential leader of a given country to know one of the most basic principles of that country's laws. Although I suppose such a misunderstanding is not exactly surprising, coming from a man who thinks that a joke on a late night comedy show constitutes a verbal contract.
Of course, it's not always Constitutional law being hilariously misinterpreted. Sometimes it's intellectual property law too.
Sony Files Copyright Claims Against Everyone Who Uses The Word "Pixels"
TCS, let me ask you. What do you get when you combine an interesting premise regarding video games with a compelling main character, a lot of in jokes and nostalgic references to favorite games from our youth and well timed, witty humor sequences? Well, you get a movie like Pixels, one that tugs at your heart strings, thoroughly entertains you and makes you --
Oh, I'm sorry. I've been reading from my Wreck It Ralph review by mistake.
If Wreck It Ralph is a case of doing a concept well, Pixels is an example of what happens when things go horribly awry. Right down to how it's handled by the legal division.
If only he could wreck all the copies of Pixels.
Columbia Pictures, perhaps of a similar desire to wipe any trace of the movie off the face of the Earth, issued a takedown notice to Vimeo earlier this year. Now this would not have been an issue per se, had Entura International, the company Colombia contracted to to handle the claim, had issued the notice against, oh, anyone that actually violated the copyright license.
Instead, it seems that they issued a blanket notice against any video returned by a search that had the word "pixels" in it, operating under what I can only assume to be the "What do you mean we can't copyright a word that's been around for fifty years before our shitty movie came out?" logic. Rather than removing any pirated content from the web, they instead wound up pulling nothing more than a series of independent films, and a video by a band called the Pixels. The only content they did manage to take down remotely related to the franchise was their own god damned trailer.
Pictured above, property of Columbia Pictures.
Of course, one might not place the blame entirely on Columbia Pictures. One might also blame the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the blind application of which often results in non-offending videos getting pulled without much in the way of initial inquiry first, even when the videos do not actually contain copyrighted content, or where its use of the content is protected under the First Amendment, like if it is being used in the context of a review or satire.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut that is another can of worms we are not getting into today.
In complete and utter fairness, though, Columbia did take down at least one video that seemed to share some rather suspicious similarities to the blockbuster movie.
The short film, although only two minutes long, obviously borrows heavily from stylistic and concept choices of the movie, going so far as to even have the same name. So in this case, I suppose, I can understand why they-
Hmm? What's that?
Oh. Apparently that's the video Pixels was originally inspired by. From 2011.
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