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This is a law report and as with all law reports, it presents the entirety of the judgment, the judicial opinion, often with law reporter commentary, and the selection of decisions is confined to a topic. In this case, USFJDO, the compilation is limited to the unusual, strange and funny judicial decision or opinion (aka reasons). Bizarre and offbeat qualify as well but that would have made the legal citation far too unwieldy.

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Table of Contents

Henderson v Weiss, 1935 USFJDO 1 - the Baseball Bully

baseball fight The judge's name, Henry G. Wenzel Junior.

He is a dead judge now but he was a Supreme Court of New York judge from 1932 to 1958 in Queens County. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School and was a lifelong Republican. His decision, a tort case, is self-explanatory:

This was an action for assault arising out of a baseball game. The plaintiff, at bat, was struck on the hip by a pitched ball. To show his displeasure as he took his base, the plaintiff admittedly threw his bat in the general direction of the pitcher's box. There ensued then an altercation between the two teams, during which the plaintiff tried to steal second base. Being returned to first base by the umpire, a colloquy arose between the Plaintiff/base runner and the Defendant first baseman during which, allegedly, the first baseman asked the plaintiff if he had ever received a punch in the nose.

This is the prologue.

The Plaintiff hero, 17 years of age and 127 pounds in weight, undaunted by the fact that the first sacker stood 6 feet, 2 1/2 inches tall and weighed 220 pounds, scornful of the fact that a soft answer turneth away wrath, retorted in what in the lexicon of youth is called a snappy comeback: Do you think you're big enough?

This retort is classic; it will be found on the same page of War-talk with Oh, Yeah? You and what army?, etcetera, etcetera.

Whatever Plaintiff's doubts may have been as expressed by his query, they were immediately resolved by the action of the first baseman, Defendant herein.

Having been carried to the dugout by his team mates, and subsequently examined by physicians, the Plaintiff's injuries were diagnosed as a fractured jaw, for which injury he now seeks a poultice of damages.

Most of the facts are conceded. That an assault occurred is not open to doubt. Indeed the Defendant admits that he slapped the Plaintiff down. That Plaintiff was pugnacious and provocative is also beyond question. However, this does not excuse the Defendant for slapping the plaintiff down as he might a troublesome mosquito.

The Plaintiff says he suffered pain for one day, was kept from school for several weeks, but is now fully recovered, for which the court directs a verdict … in the sum of $150.

Let the Plaintiff learn to keep his tongue in his cheek and the Defendant his hands in his pockets.

REFERENCES:

  • Green, L. C., The Lighter Side of the Law, 31 Sask. B. Rev. 162 (1966)
  • Prosser, William L., The Judicial Humorist (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1952)
  • Smith, George Rose, A Critique of Judicial Humor, 43 Ark. L. Rev. 1 (1990)