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Is This Some Solstice Fool's Joke?

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:

Late last week, a Santa Fe District Court judge signed a temporary restraining order against talk-show host David Letterman alleging [sic] he has tormented a city resident for more than 10 years by using code words on his television program. . . .

In the application for the restraining order, which was filed Thursday, Nestler alleges that between May 1994 and now, Letterman forced her to go bankrupt and caused her "mental cruelty" and "sleep deprivation."

Nestler . . . requested that Letterman, who tapes his show in New York, stay at least 3 yards from her and that he not "think of me, and release me from his mental harassment and hammering," according to the application.

Nestler's application was accompanied by a typed, six-page, double-spaced letter in which she said Letterman used code words, gestures and "eye expressions" to convey his desire to marry her and train her as his co-host. Her story also involves Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelsey Grammer, whom Nestler says either supported or attempted to thwart her "relationship" with Letterman, according to the letter.

Nestler wrote that she began sending Letterman "thoughts of love" after the Late Show With David Letterman began on CBS in 1993.

"Dave responded to my thoughts of love, and, on his show, in code words & obvious indications through jestures (sic) and eye expressions, he asked me to come east," she wrote.

Then, three days before Thanksgiving in 1993, Letterman asked Nestler to be his wife during a televised "teaser" for his show when he said, "Marry me Oprah," Nestler wrote in the letter.

"Oprah had become my first of many code names," she wrote. "... (A)s time passed, the code-vocabulary increased & changed, but in the beginning things like 'C' on baseball caps referred to me, and specific messages through songs sung by his guests, were the beginnings of what became an elaborate means of communication between he and myself." . . .

Judge Sanchez signed the temporary restraining order Thursday afternoon and set the case to be heard Jan. 12, according to court documents. In a phone interview Tuesday, Sanchez said he couldn't comment on the order.

When asked if he might have made a mistake, Sanchez said no. He also said he had read Nestler's application.

In his motion asking Sanchez to quash the order, Rogers said the District Court lacks jurisdiction over Letterman, Nestler never served Letterman with the necessary restraining-order papers, and she didn't meet procedural requirements for issuing a temporary restraining order. . . .

I'm trying to get a copy of the TRO — if you have it and can e-mail it to me, I'd be very much obliged — but it sounds to me like either the newspaper or the judge got this badly, ridiculously wrong. (In some situations, judges rule in favor of plaintiffs with strange theories when the defendant fails to show up, and the defendant wins by default; but to my knowledge they have to exercise some supervisory power, especially when the defendant wasn't served, whether because of the plaintiff's omission or because the proceeding is supposed to be ex parte, i.e., without the defendant's participation.)

Thanks to Tom Elia (The New Editor) for the pointer.

UPDATE: Thanks to our indispensable law library, I've now gotten a copy of the crazy application and of the temporary restraining order, which I've posted on this site. The TRO is pretty boilerplate, barring Letterman from "threaten[ing], harm[ing], alarm[ing] or annoy[ing]" Nestler -- let's hope that doesn't implicitly bar him from using mysterious "code words" on his show -- ordering him to stay at least 100 yards away from Nestler, her residence, and her workplace, ordering him not to telephone her or contact her, and ordering him not to block her in public places or roads.

In practice, I doubt that it will affect Letterman much, since I doubt he had many plans to go to Santa Fe or to get in touch with this woman. But as a matter of principle, it's pretty outrageous (though I'm sure not unprecedented): Based on a patently frivolous allegation, and without any remotely conceivable justification, Letterman has his liberty restrained.

It also casts doubt either on the judge's competence or on his candor. Either the judge read this carefully and thinks the order is well-founded, in which case he isn't a very smart judge. Or he didn't read this carefully, and on reflection must realize that he's made a mistake, in which case his statement (assuming that the newspaper accurately paraphrased them) that he didn't make a mistake and that he read Nestler's application seems less than candid.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Is it Illegal for David Letterman to Own a Gun?
  2. Is This Some Solstice Fool's Joke?
Pete Freans (mail):
Without sounding facetious, shouldn't the petitioner's mental condition play a factor in meeting the burden of a TRO? I am not a NM attorney, but I imagine that a "substantial likelihood of irreparable harm" standard would be applicable in this instance. Who would sign an affidavit of this nature? Or grant it? I look forward to updates....
12.21.2005 2:51pm
Just John:
UPDATE: Ms. Nestler has just revealed that she was ordered to watch Letterman by her superiors in the NSA. The order has therefore been upheld, but Democrats in Congress are now pushing for a hearing and demanding President Bush apologize.
12.21.2005 2:52pm
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):
If the TRO orders Letterman to stay three yards from her, it's probably not much of an imposition on him.

On the other hand, if it orders him not to think about her, it's probably self-defeating.
12.21.2005 2:55pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Most judges, desiring to appear sensitive to domestic violence victims, grant more than 99 percent of all temporary restraining orders that are filed. (And it costs nothing to seek a domestic violence TRO, unlike every other kind of civil process, which requires a filing fee).

They're terrified that in the freak event that they deny a poorly-supported TRO motion, and the defendant then goes nuts in response to the TRO motion and kills the complainant, they'll be demonized on TV and in the press or even, in rare cases, removed from the bench for "insensitivity."

Domestic violence TRO's are granted without any opportunity for the innocent accused to tell his or her side of the story.

Such TRO's have been called the "poor woman's divorce" because they enable the wife to summarily kick out her husband and gain control of the house and family car without even going through the procedural safeguards needed for a divorce.

I myself have talked to men who were wheelchair bound or otherwise physically disabled from posing much risk of harm who were falsely accused and then made subject to ex parte domestic violence TROs.

This episode reminds me of Tonya Harding, who was convicted of a violent felony, getting her injured boyfriend arrested for domestic violence after first telling 911 operators that she was beaten by masked intruders and then changing her mind and accusing her boyfriend. The prosecutors believed her, despite her own conceded initial lie about the very incident question, and charged the boyfriend despite his denials.

There's an awful lot of sex bias in handling domestic violence cases, always against the male. Women who kill their husbands without provocation get only 7 years, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, compared to 17 years for men who kill their wives.
12.21.2005 3:04pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Is Mr. Letterman now forced to surrender or sell any firearms he may own?

Nick
12.21.2005 3:05pm
Paul Horwitz:
I was dumbstruck by this story too. But I can't help but wonder if the judge thought that signing such an order would have some calming effect on an obviously mentally ill woman (or just get her out of his court) and have zero effect on Letterman's life, and so opted to mollify her by signing the order.
12.21.2005 3:11pm
Public_Defender:
It's real. You can look up the case by searching with Letterman's name here: http://www.nmcourts.com/newface/clookup/disclaimer.html

Here's the court's docket:

Data use is subject to NMSA 1978, Sec. 14-3-15.1(1995). Back to Search Page

NESTLER V LETTERMAN

-- Case Detail --
Case #: D-101-CV-200502772
Current Judge: DANIEL A SANCHEZ
Case Status: PN PENDING Status Date: 12/15/2005
Filing Date: 12/15/2005
Court: Santa Fe District Court

-- Parties to this Case --
PLAINTIFF P 1 NESTLER COLLEEN

DEFENDANT D 1 LETTERMAN DAVID


-- Register of Actions Activity --
Event Date Event Description P Type P Num Amt
12/19/2005 REQUEST FOR HEARING/SETTING
REQUEST FOR EXPEDITED HEARING

MATTER: EXPEDITED MOTION BY SPECIAL APPEARANCE TO QUASH
TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

12/19/2005 MTN: MOTION
EXPEDITED MOTION BY SPECIAL APPEARANCE TO QUASH TEMPORARY
RESTRAINING ORDER

12/16/2005 JDG: JUDGE ASSIGN ROTATION
Effective Dec. 16, 2005 a general reassignment of all
civil and domestic cases in Division III and Division VII
of the 1st Judicial District Court will occur due to a
division transfer and judge appointment. All cases
assigned to District Judge Daniel Sanchez, Division VII,
will be reassigned to District Judge Raymond Ortiz,
Division III. All cases assigned to Division III,
(formerly District Judge Carol J. Vigil's cases) will be
reassigned to District Judge Daniel Sanchez, Division VII.

12/15/2005 ORD: RESTRAINING
TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER - JANUARY 12, 2006, AT 9:00 AM

12/15/2005 INFORMATION SHEET
INFORMATION SHEET ON DAVID LETTERMAN

12/15/2005 OPN: APPLICATION
APPLICATION FOR A RESTRAINING ORDER

12/15/2005 ASM: CIVIL FILING W/ ARBITRAT P 1 122.00


-- Judge Assignment History --
Assign Date Judge Name Sequence # Assignment Event Desc
12/15/2005 CAROL VIGIL 1
12/16/2005 DANIEL A SANCHEZ 2 JDG: JUDGE ASSIGN ROTATION

-- Civil Complaints --
12/15/2005 1 OPN: APPLICATION 2
Parties to this Complaint:
LETTERMAN DAVID D - 1
NESTLER COLLEEN P - 1
Causes of Action:
1 - RESTRAINING ORDER
12.21.2005 3:24pm
JohnAnnArbor:
But I can't help but wonder if the judge thought that signing such an order would have some calming effect on an obviously mentally ill woman (or just get her out of his court) and have zero effect on Letterman's life, and so opted to mollify her by signing the order.

That's the best explanation I've heard so far. Add to that the judge may have hoped Letterman (and the media) would never get wind of it.
12.21.2005 3:25pm
Matt22191 (mail):
Nick,

Under federal law, the prohibition you're thinking of only applies to restraining orders protecting "an intimate partner" of the subject of the order, or a "child of such intimate partner." 18 U.S.C. s 922(g)(8). It doesn't sound like Nestler qualifies. Of course states can adopt broader prohibitions, though I don't know where New York or New Mexico stand on this.

Nevertheless, this sort of thing does illustrate why many gun rights activists consider section 922(g)(8) grossly unfair. The theory sounds good; it's the practice -- the typical ease of obtaining restraining orders, especially in domestic cases, and the ways that they can be used as leverage by sometimes-unscrupulous litigants and attorneys -- that raises questions. But serious efforts at reform would be politically problematic because of the predictable headlines: "gun rights group wants to arm wife-beaters," etc. How many politicians are likely to vote for the "Domestic Abuser Rearmament Act of 2006?" -- which, unfair or not, is certainly the way the MSM will describe any reform effort.
12.21.2005 3:26pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Carmen Diaz has been stalking me the same way for years. I tolerate her because I don't wish to deny anyone my vital essences.
12.21.2005 3:30pm
Yo Jimbo (mail):
I would hazard a guess that the judge issued the order as an attempt to ease the pain of this woman's paranoid-delusions, which she clearly suffers from. If it is of no cost and no serious consequence to do so, perhaps the judge reasoned that the this would help calm this woman’s mind, at least for a time.

Is funny though.
12.21.2005 3:30pm
cirby (mail):
Things like this make you want all restraining orders to be 100% reciprocal. If Person A has to stay away from Person B, then Person B has the same restriction apply to Person A.
12.21.2005 3:42pm
Justin Levine:
Sorry Professor - but you and many of the commenters here are ignoring the most likely and obvious explanation for this story: The judge simply "rubber stamped" the requested TRO <b>without taking the time to actually read the case documents</b>. This happens all the time. Much of jurisprudence is merely routine paper-pushing. Why is the legal community seemingly so reluctant to admit this? <p>Judges also often pass off work to clerks who themselves don't read what the attorneys actually submit to the court. I'm sure any practicing attorney will back me up on this and has probably suspected that it has happened to them at one point or another in their careers. Haven't you ever slaved for weeks over an important motion, only to show up to the hearing and face questions that suggest that suggest that your motion wasn't even opened?? Come on...be honest now....
12.21.2005 3:45pm
Splunge (mail):
I have to say, if I was the presiding judge in this Court, I would do whatever I could to censure, punish or otherwise apply the most severe negative reinforcement I could imagine to the judge who signed this order.

This action is hardly harmless, even if it does David Letterman no harm at all, because it will lower public respect for the judiciary by some small but measurable and important amount. People remember these things, and the next time they hear about a judge lecturing from the bench about how folks have to do the right thing even if it isn't easy, or hear a sermon on "respect for the law," or are asked to believe that a lawyer is as honest as a doctor -- they remember this stuff, and they say "ha!" inside, with a marked noted of contempt and cynicism.

That is, one boneheaded action like this can undo years of patient work by good and decent lawyer and judges to earn and keep the public trust, and public trust in the judiciary is, ultimately, the only thing that keeps the system functioning, because there aren't enough policemen with guns to enforce the will of the Courts on a thoroughly unwilling and contemptuous people. Without general public trust and respect, the Courts are powerless and meaningless.

In my field (science) there is an understanding, however imperfectly followed, that it is essential we be our own harshest critics, if we are to prevent bad apples from ruining public trust. I could wish I saw more of this in the legal community.
12.21.2005 4:02pm
The Original TS (mail):
You just know Jay Leno is behind this, somehow.
12.21.2005 4:06pm
Public_Defender:
I agree with some who say some judges don't look over DV restraining orders carefully enough. When in law school, I once had a secretary grant a TRO. She looked over my verified complaint and my proposed order, turned the order to the last page, and handed it to the judge. The judge signed the proposed order without reading it.

At least the defendant in my case got secretarial review (which any practicing lawyer will tell you can be more searching than judicial review). My guess is that the judge in this case didn't read what he was signing.
12.21.2005 4:07pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Matt - I knew the federal law didn't apply. New York law I don't know in this area - nor am I sure whether Letterman is a resident of NY, NJ, or CT (and I don't know NJ or CT law here either).

I think that Justin hit the nail on the head, and that the judge is now lying to the newspaper in a CYA attempt.

It still should cause his removal from the bench. Even one instance of this gross of derelection of duty is too much.

Nick
12.21.2005 4:11pm
NickM (mail) (www):
That's dereliction.

Nick
12.21.2005 4:13pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Justin: I thought this might be so, but I assumed that the judge denied this when he said, "When asked if he might have made a mistake, Sanchez said no. He also said he had read Nestler’s application."

Eugene
12.21.2005 4:16pm
wt (mail) (www):
So when Letterman makes a joke about this in a monologue either tonight or tomorrow, does he risk prosecution for failing to abide by the TRO?

Even funnier, he may just openly propose marriage to the woman, and confess his love for her, in order to poke fun at her claims. Is that jail time for Letterman?
12.21.2005 4:19pm
Zubon (mail):
So which would be worse?
1. The judge signed it without reading it.
2. The judge read it, decided it had merit, and signed it.
12.21.2005 4:25pm
John R. Mayne (mail):
I'm with Splunge on the negative effect this has on the judiciary.

In my experience in two California counties, judges are fairly careful in reviewing TRO requests or emergency protective order requests; a non-trivial percentage are denied. It may well be that some jurisdictions operate differently.

Granting her a motion based on an effort to appease her is badly mistaken on two grounds:

1. Judges need to obey the law.

2. This will certainly exacerbate her mental illness; she'd being validated by a judge.

These types of people are potentially dangerous (Letterman had his own stalker before; there have been several celebrity deaths due to obsessed delusional folk of this type.) Giving her anything other than, "This is not happening; it is false; you need to think about something else," is contributory to the delusion.

I don't relish the task Letterman's lawyers are up against. They've got a judge who has said he hasn't made a mistake on a fact pattern which indicates it was a clear, obvious mistake. Court rules correctly require adequate respect be paid to judges, even when said judges are wrong, but to call this "misguided" is a colossal understatement. Perhaps they can have him removed from the case for his public comments.

--JRM
12.21.2005 4:28pm
The Original TS (mail):
The worst thing about this is it will encourage all kinds of extremely loopy folks to bother courts for TROs. I suggest Judge Sanchez skip going to judicial conferences for a while.Every judge in America is now cursing his name.
12.21.2005 4:31pm
agesilaus:
This again illustrates the major problems with granting prosecutors and judges absolute immunity for their actions, no matter how injurious those actions may be.
12.21.2005 4:51pm
JDB (mail) (www):
As for the federal firearm provision, 922(g)(8)(A) only applies if the restraining order was "issued after a hearing of which such person received actual notice, and at which such person had an opportunity to participate." So the TRO wouldn't meet that standard, but a (semi)permanent order entered after a hearing with Letterman noticed/present would.
12.21.2005 4:53pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I had a client here whose divorcing wife got a DV restraining order with a one-sentence affidavit that said they "had been having arguments." That was it. Didn't even specify loud arguments. Judge signed it.

In a dispute over a church here, one faction of churchgoers proclaimed themselves the leadership. When the other faction ignored them, they got a restraining order against harrassment, claiming that the clergymen were staying on the land without their permission and had made various threats of violence. They admitted under oath later that the threats were untrue. I turned both sets of sworn paperwork over to the Atty General's Office and they, of course, wrote back that they were not interested.
12.21.2005 5:10pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
I'd say there are a few problems with jurisdiction here.

If not, the next thing will be her motion for contempt because she was three feet from her television set when Letterman appeared for his monologue and the propinquity violated the order.

What decision Judge Sanchez?
12.21.2005 5:14pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
So which would be worse?
1. The judge signed it without reading it.
2. The judge read it, decided it had merit, and signed it.


Yep. You'd think the judge would opt for confessing 1, rather than claiming 2. Better to be thought negligent in a specific than demented in general.
12.21.2005 5:25pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Wasn't there some medieval King in Europe that signed his own death warrant?
12.21.2005 5:49pm
Joshua (mail):
So when Letterman makes a joke about this in a monologue either tonight or tomorrow, does he risk prosecution for failing to abide by the TRO?

Even funnier, he may just openly propose marriage to the woman, and confess his love for her, in order to poke fun at her claims. Is that jail time for Letterman?


My thoughts exactly! Also, not to indulge in schadenfreude or anything (wink, wink), but if Letterman does openly defy the TRO in this manner, from the safety of being out of his jurisdiction, it really paints Judge Sanchez into a corner when this woman comes back to him with a motion for contempt. If all he wanted was to make this woman go away, is he now really willing to hold Letterman in contempt, with all that that entails, just to maintain the integrity of a decision that he never should have made in the first place? On the other hand, if he doesn't do so he puts himself out on a limb professionally, to say the least.
12.21.2005 5:50pm
Apodaca:
Agesilaus says:
This again illustrates the major problems with granting prosecutors and judges absolute immunity for their actions, no matter how injurious those actions may be.
Except that the immunity isn't really absolute. See, for example, Zarcone v. Perry, 572 F.2d 52 (2d Cir. 1978).
12.21.2005 5:57pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
Perhaps this case will be to TROs what the famous peanut butter suit was to prisoner litigation -- the exceptionally absurd abuse that illustrates and brings attention to a genuine, widespread problem and triggers a legislative response. (For those who don't remember, a prisoner once filed a civil rights suit claiming a violation of his constitutional rights because he got creamy instead of chunky peanut butter, or vice versa.)

Issuing an order to anybody ex parte is a drastic measure that should only be taken in exceptional circumstances. The rules have gotten much too lax on that, and they need to be fixed.
12.21.2005 7:16pm
nk (mail) (www):
Just one more reason never to travel to Santa Fe.
12.21.2005 9:23pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that the thing that everyone needs to remember is that this is a TRO. A Temporary Restraining Order. TROs have a very low standard because they are temporary. Back in AZ, I got some TROs for several people, including my secretary's daughter. But then, at the mandatory preliminary injunction hearing a week or so later, I typically lost if the other party showed. The burden was then on us, and without real hard evidence, just he said, she said, I tended to lose.

If Letterman (or his attorney) shows at the evidentiary hearing, he is highly likely to win. As usual, the real risk is that someone doesn't show, because they believe it too ridiculous to contest.

Also, is there any evidence that Letterman has been served? Without service, the court has no jurisdiction over him.
12.21.2005 9:53pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Even if it is only temporary, there must be SOME minimum standard. Otherwise, what's the point of having judicial review of it at all? Why not just let the clerk do it, or the cops?

I mean, if this one is sufficient even under a minimum standard, can we think of any bizarre request that would not be? Could she -- should she -- have been able to get a TRO against George Bush for irritating her with the secret messages in his speeches?

And don't think for a moment that TROs can't harm the defendant. As a prosecutor, and as a defense lawyer, I've seen old ones (just TROs, not final restraining orders) pop up on background checks and be used, for instance, as indicia of danger justifying higher or no bail. Granted, that's not terribly likely for Letterman, unless he gets popped for speeding again, or for British Dentition in the Third Degree. But it's a real problem -- particular for people who can't aford to send in the Attorney 101st to quash the TRO.
12.22.2005 12:03am
Conrad (mail):
The judge's "statement that he didn't make a mistake and that he read Nestler's application seems less than candid."

Let's not sugar coat it. You mean he's a liar -- in addition to being derelict in his duties.
12.22.2005 12:09am
Armen (mail) (www):
I remember not too long ago when Justice Stevens was honoring a retiring 7th Cir judge, he told of a story where this judge and his colleagues allowed a woman to make some sort of a claim about aliens stealing her thoughts (or something to that effect). Moral of the story was the woman left content knowing that someone had actually heard her.

But there's definitely a Top 10 list or two lurking in here.
12.22.2005 12:54am
Julian Droms:
> But I can't help but wonder if the judge thought that
> signing such an order would have some calming effect on an
> obviously mentally ill woman (or just get her out of his
> court) and have zero effect on Letterman's life, and so
> opted to mollify her by signing the order.

If so, he's even stupider — the woman believes that David Letterman was at one time in love with her and wanted to marry him. What do you think is the likelihood that over the next few weeks, she comes around to her aquaintances and says, "See? I told you David Letterman was in love with me and was trying to ruin my life! I as much as said so in my application, and the Judge agreed with me — he granted me a temporary restraining order. (Unfortunately, I didn't have enough proof, so he wasn't able to grant me the permanent restraining order.)"

This sounds downright dangerous. I can't help but ask, would a judge have thought twice about lending the appearance of validity to a mentally ill, erotomanic and delusional stalker, if the celebrity in question were female?

I mean, to you and me, the line of reasoning seems perverse, but the woman certainly has a knack for jumping to conclusions. No wonder Letterman is pissed!

By the way, I think this is the third such stalker David Letterman has had. Why? Is it natural charisma, or is he just on the T.V. late when all the crazies are just getting started?
12.22.2005 5:01am
Julian Droms:
P.S. Why 3 yards? Hoping David would be satisfied with just 4?
12.22.2005 5:05am
vic:
i think this illustrates the problem with trying to enumerate how many lawsuits are frivolous.

Most attempts at enumerating the amount of frivolous lawsuits have focused on asking judges about their perception of the number of frivolous lawsuits that pass through their corthouse. And the judges say: a trivial amount. I have always felt that the rreson this number is said to be trivialis that, the judge who allows a garbage lawsuit to go to trial, when he/she could have stopped it from proceeding further, is not going to say: yeah it was frivolous but I didnt want to throw it out when i could have.

Just a thought!

In any event, any serious thoughts about tarring and feathering the fella before driving hoim outa the justice system.
12.22.2005 8:05am
Zubon (mail):
"P.S. Why 3 yards?"

I am trying to get the right joke going about "I wouldn't touch that one with a ten-foot pole." Because, you know, he could...
12.22.2005 8:12am
Public_Defender:
It looks like the judge moved up the hearing. This item was added to the docket:

12/21/2005 NTC: HEARING (CIVIL)
NOTICE OF EXPEDITED HEARING
EXPEDITED MOTION BY SPECIAL APPEARANCE TO QUASH TEMPORARY
RESTRAINING ORDER

It looks like it's a notice of a hearing on the motion to quash. The docket doesn't say when the hearing will be.
12.22.2005 8:52am
James Kabala (mail):
I doubt that Letterman will mock this woman in his next monologue; he was generally compassionate toward the equally nuts woman who actually broke into his house. It is odd that he keeps attracting stalkers, however.
12.22.2005 10:32am
Sparky:
Actually, even if everything she said is TRUE, she STILL shouldn't be entitled to a TRO. She never claims Letterman is communicating with her in any way other than through the TV. All she has to do is turn it off.
12.22.2005 11:15am
C.J.Colucci (mail):
While waiting my turn in court some years ago, a deluded woman asked the judge for an order preventing the U.S. government from reading her thoughts. The AUSA was not the usual earnest kid, but a somewhat seasoned practitioner. The judge turned to the AUSA, glared at him and said: "I want you to go back to your client and tell them I said they have to cut it out. Right now. Am I clear?" "Yes, your honor."
The woman left happy. I assume the AUSA did what he was told.
12.22.2005 11:17am
Opus (mail):
Almost everyone involved in the court system has a similar anecdote. The problem is, while these solutions seems kind or clever, the results often are palliative. If the poor soul is suffering from paranoid delusion, as is often the case, a new delusion simply will replace the old one. Imagine the hypochondriac, who, when "cured" of one non-existent disease, eventually develops “symptoms” of another illness.
12.22.2005 1:45pm
bud (mail):
"Rubberstamp" and "Boiler Plate" are not unknown concepts in the acquistion of various kinds of court orders. Most of the time, the laziness of the attorney and Judge has little practical effect. Sometimes it produces minor irritants, and, as here, sometimes its results are amusing.

There are occasions, however, like the Mayes case that was mentioned here a week ago, where it produces horrific events, and so should be loudly (and needfully embarassingly so) condemned.
12.22.2005 4:06pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
While waiting my turn in court some years ago, a deluded woman asked the judge for an order preventing the U.S. government from reading her thoughts. The AUSA was not the usual earnest kid, but a somewhat seasoned practitioner. The judge turned to the AUSA, glared at him and said: "I want you to go back to your client and tell them I said they have to cut it out. Right now. Am I clear?" "Yes, your honor."
The woman left happy. I assume the AUSA did what he was told.


A brother of a friend worked as a gov't attorney in DC decades ago, and one afternoon an old fellow comes in (this was in the days before security was impregnable) and explains that the martians are reading his mind.

The brother replied yes, we are well aware of the martians' deeds, and are working on countermeasures. Until then, there is one way to escape. Get a coat hanger, straighten out all but the hook. Put the hook thru a belt loop on your pants, let the straight end drag on the ground. This will ground out your body and the martians' device will be unable to transmit. The fellow shook his hand in glee and left.

About a week later the brother was driving and he passed the old fellow, coat hanger trailing behind him, and a triumphant smile on his face. The brother nearly went off the road while laughing.
12.22.2005 4:42pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
A long while ago, I did a stint as the research attorney for the LA Superior Court Family Law SJ. Part of the clerks', bailiff's and my job was to filter out complete nut-case TRO petitions, and mollify the applicants.

This did not under ANY circumstances include getting a judge to sign an order just to make the crazy person happy.

The court denied, for a series of procedural reasons,(none of which was "Lady, you're as mad as a hatter!") the application by the lady who swore that Mary Tyler Moore was reading her mind, and signalling her threat to decapitate her (by cutting flowers and putting them in a vase!). We also resolved the problem for the lady who had someone reading her mind with beams (I forget whether it was the CIA or the alien people) by replacing the battery (we all chipped in) in the "beam radiation deflection device" which a thoughtful police department mechanic had built and provided to her (metal "project box" ala Radio Shack; two bulbs, two fancy switches, and a battery clip, with nice labels explaining how to use it...) The only thing we couldn't figure out a way around was the detailed name change petition by the guy who changed his name to "Jesus Christ".


r gould-saltman
12.23.2005 5:18pm
OT (mail):
Once more our legal system shows how screwed up it is. I can't tell which is more crazy, the woman who applied for the TRO or the judge who granted it.

As to Letterman giving up firearms; such a left-wing weenie wouldn't have the balls to have a firearm in his home.

I wonder...if the judge will issue a TRO against contact would he issue an order compelling contact? I'd like one of those for a weekend in Vegas with the sexy red-head on CSI.
12.24.2005 4:01pm
GHJ (mail):

Certainly the woman is crazy, but is there any truth to her claim?

What the general public does not realize, is that all broadcast stations and many specific television shows are playing the Mooks and shearing the Sheeple.

Every broadcast network tries to collect as much information as possible from the public, about its programs. There are many ways that this is done. Numerous television shows will also separately collect, analyze and use feedback from the public. Every word of every letter or email sent to a television station or program is scrutinized. Details as to likes and dislikes are gleaned, and the information is used to provide direction, as well as develop new material. Personal anecdotes from the viewers are captured and the core messages of these mini stories are likely to be incorporated into the show.

This is referred to as reflecting. Reflecting back to the fans, that which they divulge in their communiqués. It is a strategy very similar to the ‘cold reading’ technique performed by tarot card readers. The Mark is not aware of how much they are revealing, or to what purpose their entanglement might be used.

There are practical reasons for generating and perpetuating communications with viewers. It is difficult to know public sentiment while preoccupied with a daily show. Anything the public has to say may be used in creating content. It is difficult to continually come up with new ideas and things to say without regular input from the audience, as well as other sources. It is easy to become stale in a relatively brief period of time and the ratings will immediately reflect it.

However the application of such practices can and does lead to collateral damage. The Mark or Mook is being lead-on. There are ample teasers in the form of buzzwords, gestures and visuals which are intended to excite the interested person or persons. Instigation, antagonism and other forms of provocation are often used to whip up the target. Taking their cue from ubiquitous good cop bad cop scenes, the program creators push whatever buttons they can detect.

Creating conflict between a show and individuals or certain groups or other shows is all part of hightening the drama. It contributes to creating a sense of edginess which translates into ratings and dollars. The dance they dance can be dangerous for mentally unstable individuals, from within the viewing public.

The cast members and writers of sophisticated daily television programs share ideas and information. They collaborate. Writers who work for multiple programs bring with them the knowledge and ideas generated by their other gigs. The friendships that develop among members of different shows, mostly on the same network, are used to assist each other in various ways, such as promoting each other’s projects and programs and playing the Mooks.

It is all part of creating buzz, and it is easy for the dramatis personae and crew to transgress. The heady buzz created in the pursuit of ratings and dollars makes it easy to break ethical standards. Unfortunately for an unsuspecting few, the fantasy of television can become their reality and the result is devastating. The only real question that remains is whether the network programs are culpable, or not.
12.24.2005 5:12pm
Marc Visconte (mail) (www):
This gives me hope. I am looking for someone to represent me in a PRO against a well-known politician who has been threatening me, directly and indirectly, for years through various means, including television broadcasts, memos, emails, and thought projection. She originally started acting out after public abuse by her husband, who carried on a string of alleged affairs in order to drive her mad. She decided to get even with him by attempting to start an affair with me, an innocent and remote bystander. Since I have attempted to discourge her attentions by reacting to her, her actions, and even her voice, with revulsion, she has accelerated her actions and has actually become hostile in her attentions. It is my belief that, if something is not done to prevent this person from pursuing her evil plan, she will seek higher and higher offices, granting her more power and putting her in a position where she can order those under her to do me harm, physically, mentally, emotionally, or fiscally. To this end, I believe that she would take the necessary actions to reduce me to abject poverty, removing my earnings, my livelyhood, or my freedom.

It is my desire to find a lawyer who is willing to accept, pro bono, the grave actions of filing a permanent restraining order against one Hillary Clinton, whom I believe will attempt a run for the President of these Unites States. If she succeeds in this, she will be in a position to cause untold evil against me, and others will suffer also, as she writes Executive Orders whittling away at my rights, increases my taxes, forces me to pay for all sorts of "public benefits", or otherwise acts to make me just plain miserable. Would someone file to prevent her from seeking further political office, and to maintain a protective distance of at least one ocean between us at all times?

The woman scares me outright... not just her looks, but everything about her. I have tried to discourage her in her actions, even stooping so low as to support conservative and even REPUBLICAN goals and political agendas. Not all, of course, just plenty to let her know that I detest her.

Failing that, can someone help me file a TRO against Judge Sanchez, just for the halibut?

Note: the above (both parts) are in jest. But heck, if it prevents what-her-name from running for president, it can't be all bad, right?
12.25.2005 2:33pm
vic:
"It is all part of creating buzz, and it is easy for the dramatis personae and crew to transgress. The heady buzz created in the pursuit of ratings and dollars makes it easy to break ethical standards. Unfortunately for an unsuspecting few, the fantasy of television can become their reality and the result is devastating. The only real question that remains is whether the network programs are culpable, or not."

I see here the germ of a new legal theory to extract tort damages from the evil corporations

what a load of crap you lawyers come up with with regularity
12.26.2005 3:36am