Monday, November 11, 2013

General Rettig v. Captain Justice.

Judge Richard Kopf has a post over at Hercules and the Umpire about a motion in limine that the prosecution filed in Williamson County, Tennessee Circuit Court. The prosecution wanted to prohibit the defendant's attorney from referring to the prosecution as "the government."  The prosecution believes that referring to it as the government is derogatory.  Keep in mind that the prosecution in this case was by the State of Tennessee.  In the motion the prosecution wanted the defense to refer to the State of Tennessee by the title or name of the assistant attorney general prosecuting the case  Among the suggestions the offered in the motion was "General Rettig."  Rettig is the last name of the prosecuting attorney.

The defendant is represented by an attorney named Drew Justice.  Mr. Justice's response to General Rettig's motion was to suggest several additional name changes.  Among them, Mr. Justice noted that the word "defendant" also has negative implications and suggested that the defendant should be called "That innocent man."  Mr. Justice also suggested that he be referred to as "Defender of the Innocent" or "Captain Justice."  Since he apparently was not ever a captain, Mr. Justice asked the court for permission to use the title.  Mr. Justice also suggested that instead of referring to him and "That innocent man" as the defense, they would prefer to be called "the Resistance." You can read Mr. (Captain?) Justice's entire response here.  

So who won?  The Resistance did, in part.  According to the Business Insider, the court denied the motion in limine and the Defender of the Innocent was allowed to refer to the State of Tennessee as "the Government."  The Government got something out of it too, however, as the court decided to use the same terms that prosecutors, defense attorneys, and courts have been using for years.  So, General Rettig did not have to call the defendant "that Innocent Man" and Mr. Justice didn't get promoted to captain.

What do you think Mr. Torvik? Did the prosecution have too much time on its hands? Or does it say something about life in Williamson County when the the State of Tennessee is worried about being called "the government"?


  1. I very much enjoyed this exchange and it coincided with a recent talk with my son on the use (or abuse) of humor in legal writing. Like nunchaku, if you do not know how to use it, you'll probably end up hurting yourself. I love trying to be funny but I generally avoid it in legal writing. But when you nail it, like Captain Justice, no doubt it is awesome.

  2. Seth,
    As a lot of this blog demonstrates, I don't do humorous writing very well. As a result, I avoid using humor in anything I submit to to a court. Captain Justice certainly nailed it. Given the craziness of the State's position (don't call the government the government), he may have felt that reducing the argument to the absurd was the only way to go.


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