It’s rare that I find a funny court matter before Lowering the Bar does, but today the New York Times provided me with one. Which I’ll bet Kevin Underhill, maestro of Lowering the Bar, will be spooning up very soon.
The issues that come before Judge Noel L. Hillman in federal court in Camden, N.J., involve the usual sober matters — allegations of Medicaid fraud or child pornography or overcrowding in jails. They inevitably lead to mountains of dense legal documents with stultifying terms like “collateral estoppel” and “implied warranty of merchantability.”
Then came something unexpected — a dispute about bananas, or more precisely, a lawsuit about costumes that look like bananas and the two companies that make them. One company maintained that the other was manufacturing look-alikes that had been copied from them.
Judge Hillman could not help himself. He used terms like “bananafest” and “bananapalooza” at a hearing, after wondering “whether the founding fathers had banana costumes in mind” when they drafted the Constitution.
Later he played art critic, declaring that the costumes in question were “unlikely to end up in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.” He also weighed cheerleaders’ outfits, which had figured in a 2017 copyright case, against what he was weighing in the banana case — in legal terms. His conclusion: “It seems safe to posit that there is no universal view of what a banana costume is or what it should look like.”
It is hard to resist the temptation to call the judge’s 35-page opinion, issued on May 29, a split decision, because he ruled in favor of the company that brought the lawsuit, Rasta Imposta of Runnemede, N.J., on two issues, and in favor of the other company, Kangaroo Manufacturing, on one.