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LAWmazing 1

July 4, 1826

1826-7-04On this 50th anniversary of one of the world's most important legal documents, the American Declaration of Independence, two of it's founders, authors and supporters - and sometimes political foes - died hours apart.

On July 4, 1826, John Adams (a lawyer) the 2nd President of the United States, died in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Adams' relationship with his colleague Thomas Jefferson was volatile. Adams, for example, boycotted Jefferson's inauguration as the 3rd President of the USA in 1801.

Born in 1743, Jefferson died on the same day as Adams, July 4, 1826, but in Virginia, only a few hours earlier.

Judgment For $304,840,332,912,685.16

Gold barsIn 1922, California Superior Court judge J. R. Welch calculated that the amount owing on George Jones' promissory note dated January 18, 1897, and including interest, payable to Henry B. Stuart, was $304,840,332,912,685.16.

Both lived in San Jose, Stuart, a grain and feed dealer. The $100 promissory note carried interest of 10% compounded monthly.

The defendant declared bankruptcy shortly after the judgment was issued.

Mr. Abel Crook, Attorney

There was an attorney in New York City with the best name ever: Abel Crook (1841-1917). He was called to the New York Bar in 1864 and practised law for 55 years.

Crook was, amongst other achievements, counsel for the New York Fish Mongers' Association and one of the first cottage-owners at Brant Lake, New York.

62 Husbands?

On December 19, 1922, Theresa Vaughn, then only 24, told the Police Court in Sheffield, England that since 1917, she had married some 61 men (in addition to her first) without ever having obtained a divorce from any of them, in cities in Europe, South Africa and England, giving a whole new meaning to the word polygamy.

A Whole Code Of Law In Rhyme

Joseph Henri Flacon Rochelle was born in Paris on October 8, 1781 and died on May 27, 1834.

The son of a lawyer, he, too, was a lawyer but also a playwright.

He grew up under the auspices of a new Civil Code in France (1804) and when he found it to be too dry and, well, boring, he rewrote the whole thing ... in rhyming verse!

The Code civil des Français mis en vers avec le texte en regard was published in 1805 and Mr. Flacon Rochelle signed it "J.-.H. F. R.". Still, today, the book is listed for sale at Amazon.fr.

Murderer Dyin' In Style

Horne's RideWilliam Andrew Horne was a rich but very unpopular resident of Nottingham, England, circa 1729. He had a long rap sheet but managed to avoid long jail terms or the hangman's noose until he was 74 years old.

In 1724, while he was but a young man, he and his brother had Charles killed their infant niece but the brother kept William's secret even though William let his brother live in poverty.

But eventually, Charles' secret was let out. William Horne was arrested, tried, convicted of murder, sentenced on August 10, 1759 to be hung on his 74th birthday, December 11, 1759.

But this much hated man was nonetheless granted a last request which merits his entry in LAWmazing.

He asked for, and was granted the right to ride his own carriage, driven by his own coachmen, to the gallows on a night so windy, that contemporary records say that as he sat in the back seat of his coach, his long hair flapped in the wind well on his way to the galllows.

Married And Crazy

St. Kilda groom on cliffIn his 1693 book A Description of he Western Islands of Scotland, travel author Martin Martin tells of a groom's very strange, and very dangerous condition precedent for marriage, on the Island of St. Kilda, Scotland:

"In the face of the rock, south from the town, is the famous stone, known by the name of the mistress-stone. It resembles a door exactly; and is in the very front of this rock, which is (150 feet; 50 metres) perpendicular in height, the figure of it being discernible about the distance of a mile; upon the lintel of this door, every bachelor-wooer is by an ancient custom obliged in honour to give a specimen of his affection for the love of his mistress, and it is thus; he is to stand on his left foot, having the one half of his sole over the rock, and then he draws the right foot further out to the left, and in this posture bowing, he puts both his fists further out to the right foot; and then after he has performed this, he has acquired no small reputation, being always after it accounted worthy of the finest mistress in the world."

Naked snowmanEstate Willed To Clothe Snowmen

Madame de la Bresse was an otherwise unremarkable French eccentric ... until she died in 1876.

Then, her heirs discovered her will and then wished they hadn't because she left her entire fortune of 125K Francs to properly clothe - for the sake of la décence - Paris snowmen.

Her will was contested, the heirs arguing that it was obviously the work of an insane person, but the judge who heard the case upheld the Will.

The Sudoku Will

Sudoku WillIn Québec, where holograph wills are valid, Fernande Aubé first had a proper will done up by a notary. Discovering that she had terminal cancer, she then wrote up a second, subsequent will in the margins of a Sudoku magazine.

Scribbled here and there among the numbered grids of the popular game, was a discernible last will and testament, albeit holograph, redistributing her assets - no signature but all in her handwriting, and the magazine sealed in an envelope which she carefully stored.

Among her last words at the hospital were "give my Sudoku magazine to my daughter".

After Madame Aubé's death, the Sudoku will was contested by those who would of been advantaged by the previous, notarized will.

In 2009, Justice Bédard of the Québec Superior Court held the unusual will as valid and the assets were distributed pursuant to the Sudoku terms.

Litigation Obsession

Dr. Harrison Wagner was one crazy, paranoid dude. He may have been the world's most successful barrator (instigator of frivolous lawsuits).

The small sleepy town of Woodsboro, Maryland only had 500 inhabitants circa 1888. Wagner was an eccentric loner who started the trouble when he didn't pay a local supplier who, when presented with a bill from Dr. Wagner for medical services, deducted what Wagner owed him.

Wagner sued and lost when the supplier showed up in Court with nine character witnesses.

Wagner then started a litigation campaign the likes of which had never been seen before. He filed almost 11,000 claims for debt from various townspeople in a span of a few months, many receiving multiple claims.

The townspeople tried to get Wagner declared a barrator but without success.

Wagner somehow managed to obtain default judgment against a defendant William Shank who died soon after. Wagner pressed on against the estate, in an amount of $13,230!

After that, in mysterious circumstances, he was thrown in jail for five years. In 1899, the Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the lot of the writs because they were "fatally defective".

Now, for goodness sake, don't stop here. Keep going if you have the nerve and the stamina to proceed to more LAWmazing II:

LAWmazing 1 • LAWmazing 2 • LAWmazing 3 • LAWmazing 4LAWmazing 5LAWmazing 6LAWmazing 7LAWmazing 8 (Canadian Edition)

REFERENCES

  • A Ass, A Idiot, New York Times, December 23, 1940 (re $304,840,332,912,685.16).
  • Aubé, re the Estate of, 2009 QCCS 568, re Sudoku Estate
  • Brant Lake Association at brantlakeassoc.org re Abel Crook.
  • "Dr. Wagner's Law Suits", New York Times, May 26, 1888 (re Dr. H. Wagner)
  • MacMillan, R., "Where There’s a Will, There’s the Eccentric and the Odd Bluffer", Irish News, 24 DEC 2007 (Mme de la Bresse)
  • Martin, M., A Description of The Western Islands of Scotland (National Library of Scotland, 1693 - re St. Kilda)
  • Navarre Society Ltd., The Complete Newgate Calendar, Volume 3 (London: 1926 - re William Horne).
  • New York Times, February 11, 1886 (re Abel Crook).
  • "Noted With Pleasure", New York Times, 6 OCT 1991 (re Mme de la Bresse).
  • Quérad, J. M., La France Littéraire (Paris: Chez Firmin, 1836), page 95 (re Flacon Rochelle).
  • Wagner v County Commissioners of Frederick Court, Maryland, Circuit Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, February 7, 1899, No. 279
  • Walker, J. H., "An Itinerary of Nottingham", Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 31 (1927, re William Horne)

Thanks to...

Catherine Grandguillotte, Bibliothèque nationale de France, re Maître Flacon Rochelle.

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