Animals, information, and language

This summer has been a wonderful three months of reading and writing. Currently, I’m reading Alex Wright’s Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages, a book about information and information overload, a topic of long interest to me. Wright’s book includes interesting discussions of just how basic information management techniques are to humans and others, including how non-human species such as insects and birds preserve and disseminate information for the benefit of the group. Serendipity also struck when I recently came across this video from Time Magazine, showing Kanzi, a bonobo ape from the Great Ape Trust, who has a vocabulary of nearly 400 words that he expresses using a touch screen. Through Kanzi and earlier apes such as Koko (who used sign language to ask for a pet cat), we need to be reminded that information management and language skills are not limited to homo sapiens.

Another Civil Procedure limerick

I’ve written previously about judges using limericks in their opinions.  Here’s another.  The ABA Journal notes that U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton found a plaintiff’s 465-page complaint to violate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)‘s requirement that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement” of the plaintiff’s claim.  Noting Lord Polonius’ line in Hamlet that brevity is the soul of wit,” Judge Leighton stated that “[b]revity is also the soul of a pleading.”  He concluded with a limerick:

Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a),
His Complaint is too long,
Which renders it wrong,
Please re-write and re-file today.

Hat tip to my St. Thomas colleague Fred Light for sending this to me.

A Civil Procedure limerick

Continuing this week’s Civil Procedure and golf themes, a judge from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed a third-party complaint because it was filed by the defendants too late and without court permission.  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 14 states that a defending party filing a third-party complaint “must, by motion, obtain the court’s leave if it files the third-party complaint more than 10 days after serving its original answer.”  Here, the defendants filed their third-party complaint more than five months after they answered, and without first seeking leave of court.

The defendants’ names? Limerick Golf Club, Inc. and Limerick Golf Club Estates, Inc. (collectively, “Limerick”).  Concluding that Limerick didn’t justify the late filing, Judge Berle M. Schiller dismissed their third-party complaint.  Stating that Limerick’s “sub-par performance occurred in the pleading stage of this case and not on the golf course,” the court closed with a rhyme:

With arguments hard to resist,
The movant correctly insists,
His joinder was tardy,
And so the third party
Complaint is hereby dismissed.

Hat tip to Law.com for the story and where you can find additional details on the suit.  Court’s opinion here.

Selyaisms and The Federal Rules of Gallimaufry

In legal circles, Senior First Circuit Judge Bruce M. Selya is well-known for the broad and arcane vocabulary that he uses in his opinions, branded by many as “Selyaisms.”  Legal Blog Watch notes that in the late 1980’s, one of Selya’s clerks had a word-a-day calendar and that he and his co-clerks “tried to see who could successfully plant the day’s word in a published Selya opinion.”

In a copyright opinion issued last Friday, Judge Selya opined that a party’s counterclaims “assert[ed] copyright infringement and a gallimaufry of other federal and state-law causes of action. ” (Emphasis added.)

Gallimaufry.  Merriam-Webster Online states that it’s of Middle French origin and means “hodgepodge.”  In the context of pleading, what a wonderful word.  Of course, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were intended to permit liberal joinder of claims and defenses. Thus, the Rules (such as Rules 8 and 18) were designed with hodgepodgery in mind, subject to limits such as those in Rule 11. Thus, to an extent, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are Federal Rules of Gallimaufry.