7th Circuit, Benchslaps, Copyright, Federal Judges, Intellectual Property, Richard Posner, Ridiculousness

Judge Posner Asks, ‘Is That A Banana Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?’

Picture of Banana Lady taken from Judge Posner’s opinion.

As it turns out, it was in fact a banana, and she was absolutely not happy to see Judge Posner.

The ridiculous isn’t entirely new to Judge Posner. He’s seen lawyers treating his courtroom as a schoolyard and issued benchslaps complete with pictures of men burying their heads in sand.

But he doubtless never expected to be writing an opinion chastising a woman in a banana suit….

The appeel in question — er, apPEAL — involves Catherine Conrad, a woman from Wisconsin who dresses up as a banana and performs for people who get off on that sort of thing. She has a website where you can book her for parties.

In addition to children’s parties and “singing telegrams,” Banana Lady is also a fan of vexatious litigation. Banana Lady does not allow herself to be photographed or videotaped doing her act and claims basically everything about “dressing up as a banana” as intellectual property:

Clients who’ve hired the Wisconsin woman to perform her wacky singing telegrams have been sued for everything from sending a postcard with a picture of her in her yellow costume to videotaping her as she does her banana dance. She’s filed at least eight federal copyright violation lawsuits since 2009.

She contends that her dance, “The Banana Shake,” is an original work, but every time I read about it, I can’t help but think of this:

Banana Lady sued several credit unions who hired her to perform a “singing telegram.” Judge Posner describes the art form thusly:

“Singing telegrams are a hilarious way to send a message that is a lot more fun than sending a fax, email, instant message or greeting card. Services that provide these telegrams will be happy to send someone over to sing, dance, or act out your message to the recipient. They’ll even dress up to do it, in anything from a tuxedo and top hat to a gorilla suit! Singing telegrams spread cheer by bringing laughs into the workplace, home, public engagement, or party. You can hire ‘Marilyn Monroe’ to sing Happy Birthday to your boss, or ‘Elvis’ to sing All Shook Up to your wife on your 10th anniversary!” “What Are Singing Telegrams?,” wiseGEEK, www.wisegeek.com/what-are-singing-telegrams.htm.

The sarcasm is palpable.

100 points to whichever Seventh Circuit judge orders Posner a singing telegram and tapes it. Come on Judge Hamilton, it’s the new guy’s responsibility.

In her suit, Banana Lady makes a copyright claim against her former clients for failing to inform the audience that she is a shy fruit and does not allow pictures. But after so many lawsuits, Judge Posner finally told her to “split.”

Ugh, that one hurt.

So her suit has no merit. But we cannot end this opinion without remarking her abuse of the legal process by incessant filing of frivolous lawsuits. This is at least the eighth case she’s filed in federal court since 2009, and she has filed at least nine cases in state court just since 2011. (See wcca.wicourts.gov/caseSearchSelect.xsl for a list of cases filed in Dane County, Wisconsin, in which one party is named “Catherine Conrad.”) She appears not to have won any judgments, but she did obtain settlements in the first three federal suits that she filed.

….

Her previous state‐court complaint against persons who are defendants in the present case accused one of them of being “armed and dangerous,” compared him to the Unabomber, and suggested that “someone from Homeland Security or Fort Know” (she must have meant Fort Knox) should take his “threats seriously.” She didn’t specify what those threats were, or whether she meant that he had made threats or that he posed a threat. She demanded that another defendant both admit having been “physically present at the Kennedy Compound located in Boston, MA” (presumably she meant Hyannis Port, not Boston) on the day before or the day of the trade association event involved in this case and produce all her travel documents for those days.

With a record like that, it’s not a surprise to learn that Banana Lady has some outstanding sanctions levied against her. Potentially $96,000 worth. Judge Posner concludes his opinion by recommending that the Western District of Wisconsin enjoin Banana Lady from filing further lawsuits until she’s paid off her debts.

If you want to help her out, here’s a link to the Banana Tunes store so you can buy a copy of her CD “Out In My Dreams.” I hear the track “A Tough Day In Bananaland” is positively haunting.

As always, we have Judge Posner’s full benchslap is available on the next page….

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