Dispatches from the Farthest Outposts of Civilization

October 19, 2018 § Leave a comment


Dispatches from the Farthest Outposts of Civilization

June 8, 2018 § Leave a comment


Dispatches from the Farthest Outposts of Civilization

May 18, 2018 § Leave a comment


Dispatches from the Farthest Outposts of Civilization

April 27, 2018 § Leave a comment


Mark Twain in his own Words

April 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens, died 108 years ago tomorrow. He died on April 21, 1910, at age 74.

His sharp humor crackles today as relevant and fresh as it was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I think it’s fair to say that modern American humor learned much of its appreciation for irony and intelligence from his droll wit.

Enjoy these samples:

I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices whatsoever.

Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.

He is now fast rising from affluence to poverty.

Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough.

Formerly, if you killed a man, it was possible that you were insane—but now, if you, having friends and money, kill a man, it is evidence that you are a lunatic.

A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother.

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

When the doctrine of allegiance to party can utterly up-end a man’s moral constitution and make a temporary fool of him besides, what excuse are you going to offer for preaching it, teaching it, extending it, perpetuating it? Shall you say, the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter, and become a mouthing lunatic, besides?

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practised in the tricks and delusions of oratory.

Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will.

An experienced, industrious, ambitious, and often quite picturesque liar.

It does look as if Massachusetts were in a fair way to embarrass me with kindnesses this year. In the first place, a Massachusetts judge has just decided in open court that a Boston publisher may sell, not only his own property in a free and unfettered way, but also may as freely sell property which does not belong to him but to me; property which he has not bought and which I have not sold. Under this ruling I am now advertising that judge’s homestead for sale, and, if I make as good a sum out of it as I expect, I shall go on and sell out the rest of his property.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.

Honesty is the best policy — when there is money in it.

Prosperity is the best protector of principle.

You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.

We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God.

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

The late Bill Nye once said “I have been told that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.”

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

There isn’t time–so brief is life–for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving–and but an instant, so to speak, for that.

How Others See Us

March 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

Message I received recently from a County Court Judge in a far-flung corner of Mississippi:

We were overbooked this morning and I had to borrow a chancery courtroom. As soon as I walked over the threshold, my rules of evidence spontaneously burst into flames. What gives?!?

Who can argue with that? It’s happened to many a chancellor.

Dispatches from the Farthest Outposts of Civilization

February 16, 2018 § Leave a comment


Idling is the Devil’s Workshop

January 19, 2018 § 2 Comments

Some time in November of last year, I began to notice vehicles parked outside the courthouse, their engines idling. People apparently were leaving their car engines running while they ran into the courthouse to conduct some brief (I suppose) business. I would say on average I observed this phenomenon once a day up to Christmas.

It would have been more or less understandable if the perpetrators were suffering through some of our more recent sub-zero weather, but before Christmas the weather was mostly balmy.

At the time, I wrote it off as simply a silly thing to do.  Since then, however, I have discovered that there are some legal implications. Consider MCA 63-3-909:

No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition and removing the key, and, when standing upon any perceptible grade, without effectively setting the brake thereon and turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.

MCA 63-3-201 makes failure to comply with the above a misdemeanor.

The illegality of unattended idling vehicles came to my attention recently when I read of Mississippians in Jackson and Biloxi being ticketed for the offense. One of those cases was on private property.

Now, I am not privy to the legislature’s thinking when it decided to adopt this measure, but I am willing to bet that environmental concerns were somewhere near the bottom of the top-ten reasons behind it. Most likely it was the product of the liability insurance lobby trying to address res ipsa loquitur and per-se-negligence liability insurance implications. The law is in the chapter on “Rules of the Road” — not the private driveway, and refers to the “curb” and “side of the highway,” connoting public ways. So I doubt that the lawmakers intended to make criminals of private citizens warming up their cars in their own garages on a frosty December morn.

If the goal of the law is to criminalize silly, even stupid behavior, then I think that it has zeroed in on a worthy target. Leaving your car idling while you run into Winn-Dixie to pick up a few things, or into City Hall to pay your water bill, or into the courthouse to buy your tag, just strikes me as a self-indulgent, unnecessary exercise (I do, however, plead guilty to leaving my truck running in 22° cold while I picked up my dry cleaning on the frigid morning that I wrote this).

The folly of leaving your car running idle was brought home to me back in the 1990’s when the Mayor of Meridian emerged from a downtown restaurant after lunch and discovered a city police patrol car idling in a parking space in front of the establishment, with the keys in the ignition. The Mayor hopped behind the wheel and drove the car three blocks to the police station, where he parked and locked the car, pocketing the keys. When the officer returned to where he had parked his vehicle and discovered it missing, he radioed in that it had been stolen, and an APB was issued. A frantic search ensued, and in an hour or so the misplaced car was found right in front of the police station. Somehow the keys were located in the Mayor’s office, and in order to recover his wayward key ring the sheepish officer had to submit to the Mayor’s tongue-lashing. Considering the scope of unpleasantries that could have occurred if some malefactor had gotten hold of his car rather than the Mayor, the officer was lucky to get off so lightly.

That incident highlights something we all have observed: law enforcement officers often leave their official vehicles running while they step away to tend to other business. I suppose it’s a time-saving measure in the event of an emergency. Other first responders do, too, even with their private vehicles, although that can get carried to extremes. As I finished fueling my truck one day, an SUV pulled up to the pump behind me, and out jumped a young woman in EMT gear. An EMT tag adorned the front of the vehicle. She kept her engine running as she began pumping. I was happy to exit the scene as promptly as I could before everything went up in a Hollywoodesque blaze of glory.

But don’t blame the perpetrators. We are governed by the Law of Unattended Consequences.



The Night Before Christmas — Legal Version

December 20, 2017 § 4 Comments

The Night Before Christmas

(Legal Version)
Author Unknown

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as “I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the
second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter the “Vehicle”) being
pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the
previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name, to-wit: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen (hereinafter the “Deer”). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named Rudolph may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or
nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.) Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: “Merry
Christmas to all and to all a good night!” Or words to that effect.

Dispatches from the Farthest Outposts of Civilization

December 15, 2017 § 2 Comments


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Humor category at The Better Chancery Practice Blog.