Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Judge Posner is Cat Crazy

It is by now well known that Judge Richard Posner is a cat person. It is perhaps somewhat less well known that his love of cats has infected his judicial decision making to an alarming degree.

For example, take Judge Posner's opinion in yesterday's en banc opinion, Markadonatos v. Village of Woodbridge. The case is about whether a town's $30 booking fee imposed on all people arrested—whether innocent or not, whether based on probable cause or not—is a violation of their civil rights.

In typical Posner fashion, he would have decided the case by making up his own interpretation of the ordinance to avoid the constitutional issue, even though no one—not the village police department who actually imposed the fee, not the village lawyers, not the plaintiff, not the district court judge, not one of the three judges who each wrote an opinion for the original panel, etc.—had ever previously raised this interpretation as a possibility, much less argued that it was correct. Even on the full Seventh Circuit court, only two of the other nine judges thought Judge Posner's interpretation was permissible after he thought it up. (The decision in the case is a weird one: there are four different opinions, and none of them carry a majority of votes, so the district court's judgment is affirmed by default.)

Anyhow, one explanation for what was going on with Judge Posner's opinion is that he just couldn't stop thinking about his beloved cat. Basically every legal issue that Posner considers somehow turns into a discussion of cats.

First, we learn of Judge Posner's greatest fear—catnapping. Not a short nap like a cat takes, no, no. Something much more sinister:
The plaintiff’s counsel tells us that the $30 “booking fee” provision is unique among the provisions of the ordinance because it alone imposes a fee for what may be innocent conduct mistakenly believed by police to be illegal. He instances the $15 fee for “release of [an] impounded dog or cat.” But of course a dog or cat may escape the owner’s control, and later be impounded, without fault on the owner’s part. The animal may have been stolen, or have escaped from its home because a careless workman had left a door or window ajar, or been lured from its litter box by a rogue Woodridge police officer with catnip.
I myself have wondered about all those extra compartments on the police officer's standard belt. But it never occurred to me that one of them might be filled with catnip.

Second, we consider the things that Judge Posner's cat likes to jump on:
It’s like interpreting the phrase “my cat enjoys jumping on trampolines and beds” to mean that she enjoys jumping on both things, as opposed to her enjoying jumping only on trampolines and, separately, enjoys beds for reasons unrelated to jumping on them.
So now I imagine this scenario: Judge Posner's cat jumping on a trampoline while he lounges admiringly on his bed, and we soon find out that his cat does indeed enjoy the bed for reasons unrelated to jumping.

1 comment:

  1. And Judge Posner moves into 7th spot on our tag list. This is a very interesting post but I disappointed that it could not have also been tied into the platinum coin series.


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