Man’s Right to Fish Recognized; Violation Held Not Grounds for Divorce

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One of my ongoing projects (in addition to trying to convince our managing partner to get us a helper monkey) is to collect and make available as many legal documents as possible that are truly funny (intentionally or not).  As I come across good ones I’m uploading copies to the site and updating the summary pages that you can find over to the right.

Here’s the latest addition, sent in by a reader.  Moore v. Moore was a 1960 case arising in southern Missouri and involving a husband’s petition for divorce based on "general indignities."  Obviously that term describes a lot of relationships but this turns out to be Missouri’s term for "irreconcilable differences."  Mr. Moore alleged a laundry list of "indignities," including (the court’s headings):

  • The turkey shoot
  • The houseboat incident
  • Another anti-fishing incident
  • Late return from Shrine parade
  • The pasture incident
  • The cow sales incidents
  • The quail hunting incident
  • The telephone incident

Also, Mrs. Moore called Mr. Moore’s folks "hillbillies."

The trial court granted the divorce, but the Court of Appeals in Springfield reversed.  The whole thing is worth reading, but here are a couple of excerpts:

We will agree with respondent . . . that a husband has a right to go fishing. And we will go further and say that this right extends to fishing without the constant and ever-present impediment of female presence and participation, if such be against the will of the husband. . . . [B]ut two or three or four isolated instances of insistence upon going along, or insistence upon his not going (either fishing or turkey shooting), over a period of six years do not, in and of themselves, constitute a constant and studied course of conduct amounting to indignities which render life intolerable. . . . .

* * *

In respect to plaintiff’s evidence that Minnie once referred to relatives of the plaintiff as hillbillies: We suggest that to refer to a person as a ‘hillbilly,’ or any other name, for that matter, might or might not be an insult . . . . [H]ere in Southern Missouri, the term is often given and accepted as a complimentary expression.

An Ozark hillbilly is an individual who has learned the real luxury of doing without the entangling complications of things which the dependent and over-pressured city dweller is required to consider as necessities. The hillbilly foregoes the hard grandeur of high buildings and canyon streets in exchange for wooded hills and verdant valleys. In place of creeping traffic he accepts the rippling flow of the wandering stream. He does not hear the snarl of exhaust, the raucous braying of horns, and the sharp, strident babble of many tense voices. For him instead is the measured beat of the katydid, the lonesome, far-off complaining of the whippoorwill, perhaps even the sound of a falling acorn in the infinite peace of the quiet woods. The hillbilly is often not familiar with new models, soirees, and office politics. But he does have the time and surroundings conducive to sober reflection and honest thought, the opportunity to get closer to his God. No, in Southern Missouri the appellation ‘hillbilly’ is not generally an insult or an indignity; it is an expression of envy.

Now that’s good legal writing.

Link: Moore v. Moore, 337 S.W.2d 781 (Mo. Ct. App. 1960) (PDF copy of opinion).
Link: Lowering the Bar’s Case Law Hall of Fame Page
Link: And the Pleading Archive