Our Daily Bleg: Got Any Legal Quotes That Top Lamenting the Demise of Dueling?

Our resident quote bleggar Fred Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, is back with another request. If you have a bleg of your own — it needn’t have anything to do with quotations — send it along here.

Last week’s quotation bleg, asking for suggestions of notable recent U.S. Supreme Court quotes, elicited this response from Jerry E. Stephens, quoting now-retired U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley (Western District of Oklahoma):

I suppose counsel have a penumbral constitutional right to regard each other as schmucks, but I know of no principle that justifies litigation pollution. … This case makes me lament the demise of dueling. I cannot order a duel, and thus achieve a salubrious reduction in the number of counsel to put up with.

Clearly the U.S. Supreme Court does not have a monopoly on good quotes. I invite suggestions of other (non-U.S. Supreme Court) legal quotations from recent years.

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  1. Eric says:

    “The parties are advised to chill.”

    – Judge Kozinski, Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc. 296 F.3d 894, 9th Circuit, 2002

    Mattel sued MCA over the song “Barbie Girl”, MCA countersued. The quote in context:

    ‘After Mattel filed suit, Mattel and MCA employees traded barbs in the press. When an MCA spokeswoman noted that each album included a disclaimer saying that Barbie Girl was a “social commentary [that was] not created or approved by the makers of the doll,” a Mattel representative responded by saying, “That’s unacceptable…. It’s akin to a bank robber handing a note of apology to a teller during a heist. [It n]either diminishes the severity of the crime, nor does it make it legal.” He later characterized the song as a “theft” of “another company’s property.”

    ‘MCA filed a counterclaim for defamation based on the Mattel representative’s use of the words “bank robber,” “heist,” “crime” and “theft.” But all of these are variants of the invective most often hurled at accused infringers, namely “piracy.” No one hearing this accusation understands intellectual property owners to be saying that infringers are nautical cutthroats with eyepatches and peg legs who board galleons to plunder cargo. In context, all these terms are nonactionable “rhetorical hyperbole.” The parties are advised to chill.’

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  2. RR says:

    Avista Management v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Co.


    “ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED. Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit:. . . At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of “rock, paper, scissors.” The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006.”

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  3. David Lovely says:

    Samuel Kent is known, perhaps infamous, for some very acidic legal writing, the best of which is probably Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Ccorporation, 147 F. Supp. 2d 668.

    Some choice tidbits…
    “Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact–complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words–to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor’s edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins.”

    “That is all well and good–the Court is quite fond of the Erie doctrine; indeed there is talk of little else around both the Canal and this Court’s water cooler. Defendant, however, does not even cite to Erie, but to a mere successor case, and further fails to even begin to analyze why the Court should approach the shores of Erie. Finally, Defendant does not even provide a cite to its desired Texas limitation statute. A more bumbling approach is difficult to conceive–but wait folks, There’s More!”

    “In either case, the Court cautions Plaintiff’s counsel not to run with a sharpened writing utensil in hand–he could put his eye out.”

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  4. Dave says:

    A Supreme Court Quote that probably made the aforementioned list, but which I find absolutely incredible:

    “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
    ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Buck v. Bell (1927)

    Even more horrifying that this was case about negative eugenics. Virginia at the time sterilized people it deemed shouldn’t procreate.

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  5. Karl Bielefeldt says:

    A little more subtle, but one of my favorites nonetheless, from Davenport et al. v. Washington Education Association (on whether teacher’s unions can use dues for political activities, in response to their argument that they mix the political contributions into the same account as the dues):

    “Respondent’s improvident accounting practices do not render §760 unconstitutional.”

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  6. scientist at large says:


    Copyright Robyn Ann Goldstein, 2003

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  7. johnshade says:

    The entire text of the report of the decision in Dickes v. Fenne, which can be found here:


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  8. Robbie Jones says:

    Waggoner v. Wal-Mart – in a dispute over whether to depose a Wal-Mart Exec in Texas or Wal-Mart:

    “The Court is sympathetic with the Defendant’s argument. Surely Defendant’s corporate representative, a resident of Arkansas, would feel great humiliation by being forced to enter the home state of the University of Texas, where the legendary Texas Longhorns have wrought havoc on the Arkansas Razorbacks with an impressive 55-21 all-time record.
    On the other hand, the Court is sympathetic with Plaintiff’s position. Plaintiffs might enter Arkansas with a bit of trepidation as many residents of Arkansas are still seeking retribution for the “Game of the Century” in which James Street and Darrell Royal stunned the Razorbacks by winning the 1969 National Championship.”

    Ultimately, the court ordered the deposition to occur at the steps of the Texarkana Federal Building at the state line.

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