Last December, I set out to discover my law library colleagues’ favorite cases. Some responded with humorous cases and some with landmark cases that forever changed the face of law. I was unable to talk to everyone in December, so this month I resumed my efforts to discover my colleagues’ favorite cases.
Shameema Rahman, Senior Legal Research Specialist – Shameema chose New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). This case concerns a full-page ad taken out in the New York Times that claimed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arrest for perjury was an attempt to impede his efforts to encourage integration and ensure African Americans could exercise their right to vote. The ad contained some minor inaccuracies, and a Montgomery City Commissioner filed a libel suit against the Times, basing his suit on an Alabama law that did not require him to prove he was personally harmed by the inaccuracies contained in the advertisement. In a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court held that in order for a public official to prevail in such a suit, it was not enough to show that the statement in question contained some inaccuracies. Instead, the public official had to show that the statement in question was made with actual malice, meaning with knowledge that the statement was false or made with reckless disregard for the truth of the statement.
Margaret Wood, Senior Legal Research Specialist – Margaret chose Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp., Inc.,147 F. Supp. 2d 668 (S.D.Tex. 2001). An action for injuries sustained while working aboard a docked ship takes an intriguing turn in this case when the Judge expresses his opinion on the quality of the pleadings filed by the parties. The Judge explains,
”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.” Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp., Inc.,147 F. Supp. 2d 668, 670.
Robert Newlen, Assistant Law Librarian for Collections, Outreach, and Services – Robert chose Marshall v. Marshall, 547 U.S. 293 (2006). At first glance, Marshall v. Marshall appears to be concerned with whether the 9th Circuit properly exercised a longstanding limitation on federal court jurisdiction known as the “probate exception” in deferring to the decision of a Texas probate court. However, if you delve deeper into the facts of the case you will find this case is actually a heated contest between Anna Nicole Smith and E. Pierce Marshall concerning the estate of Anna’s late husband and E. Pierce’s late father, J. Howard Marshall II. Anna claimed that J. Howard Marshall had intended to set up a trust for her benefit, but did not do so because E. Pierce had isolated his father. E. Pierce claimed J. Howard Marshall had already been quite generous to Anna throughout the marriage and had no intention of setting up the trust. Ultimately, Justice Ginsburg, writing for a unanimous court, found the probate exception inapplicable and reversed.
We hope you have enjoyed reading some of our favorite cases. Please share your favorite case in the comments section.