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Legal research | by gwilmore
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Legal research

I used to practice law, but hated it, so I abandoned the profession after several miserable and frustrating years. However, I did enjoy the intellectual side of the law, and found my most satisfying moments during the hours I would spend in the law library doing research, wading through piles of books as I looked up statutes and case law in order to resolve some thorny legal issue. But that was one of the very few things I enjoyed about practicing law, and I am grateful beyond measure that that part of my life is now over.


During my lunch hour today, I went to the Superior Court Law Library with camera in hand, and decided to take some pictures under available light -- in this case, sunlight streaming through a window -- using a legal text, my glasses, and my fountain pen as props. I wanted to have some fun with it, too, so I pulled this particular volume off the shelf and opened it to one of the more amusing case-law decisions in recent memory: United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and his Staff, 54 FRD 282 (E. D. Pa. 1971). In this case, a judge in a United States District Court denied leave to the plaintiff to proceed "in forma pauperis" -- that is, without paying the filing fees -- in a lawsuit the plaintiff had filed against Satan. That's right -- the devil, Beelzebub, that fellow. In a tongue-in-cheek memorandum that the judge or his clerk must have had oodles of fun writing, the court noted that Satan was a "foreign prince," as such without standing to be sued in an American court, and that the plaintiff, in the paperwork he had submitted when he filed the case, had failed to include the required form of instructions to enable the United States Marshal to serve process on the defendant.


For a time, I had fantasies about someday serving on the U. S. Supreme Court, and finding a way to cite this case as precedent for one of my own decisions.

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Taken on December 19, 2005