Judge of the Day

When Judges Get Funny

You think making pop culture references is something only bloggers do? Well think again. Because it seems judges on the Maryland Court of Appeals are getting into the game.

A reader dug up a case from this summer involving whether or not the state met the burden of proof necessary to show that a pot smoker “possessed” a blunt he wasn’t physically holding at the time.

The court ruled that he did, and analogized the situation to a Cheech and Chong movie.

I’m not sure if it was the decision or the dated reference which enraged the other side, but the dissenting judge pulled out South Park….

The Cheech and Chong reference leads off the majority opinion in Smith v. State:

Reminiscent of a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie,[1] Baltimore City police officers, on 6 December 2006, executed a search warrant on a dwelling at 1932 Lanvale Street where the occupants on one floor were found shrouded in a haze of marijuana smoke. Despite the appearance of the police, Clavon Smith (“Petitioner”), one of those present, behaved as though everything remained “groovy.” Smith was seated in a chair at a table within arm’s reach of a smoldering marijuana blunt and next to another chair over which was draped a jacket with fifteen baggies of marijuana in one of its pockets[2].

Of course, judges can’t hyperlink references in their judicial opinion, so the court explains Cheech & Chong to the uninitiated in a footnote:

FN1: For those not familiar with them, Richard “Cheech” Mann and Tommy Chong (Cheech and Chong) are a comedy duo whose recreational drug (“stoner”) humor became popular in the 1970s with the release of several comedy albums, and which led to a string of movies, beginning with “Up in Smoke” in 1978, that portrayed recreational drug use in non-threatening situations. Although the team broke up in 1987, they reunited solidly in 2008 and continue to tour and make movies and television appearances to the present day.

Good job. Still, Cheech & Chong are a little dated. The funniest thing I’ve seen from the duo recently was their appearance as Native Americans on an old episode of South Park.

Speaking of South Park, the dissenting judge was all over it:

Although, in the immortal words of Mr. Mackey, “[d]rugs are bad,” the law imposes no legal duty, as opposed to moral duty, to stop others from using drugs, or to run away from people who are using drugs.[5]

Yep, he’s got his very own footnote too:

FN5: Mr. Mackey is a recurring character on the popular animated sitcom South Park, which began airing on the Comedy Central network in 1997. He is the school counselor at the elementary school featured on the show. He lectured his fourth grade charges about the dangers of marijuana in Episode 204, “Ike’s Wee Wee,” which originally aired on May 27, 1998: “You boys need to listen up, m’kay, what I’m talking about might save your life someday…. Drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs. If you do them, you’re bad, because drugs are bad. It’s a bad thing to do drugs, so don’t be bad by doing drugs, m’kay, that’d be bad.”
South Park Archives, http://southpark.wikia.com/wiki/Ike%27s_Wee_Wee (last visited June 11, 2010).

I love everything that is happening here on many levels. But the best thing about this is that the majority is using Cheech & Chong to convict a recreational pot smoker, and the dissent is using Mr. Mackey to tell the majority to chill out.

In any event, I’m thrilled that judges in Maryland are conversant in popular culture. It makes them seem more real, and knowing that these people watch Cheech & Chong movies and South Park episodes makes me trust their judgment a little bit more.

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