Assorted Stupidity #133

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  • Numero uno this week can only be the fact that, on Wednesday, somebody flushed a toilet during the live but “virtual” argument in Barr v. American Assoc. of Political Consultants, a case being heard by the United States Supreme Court. Note: although pictures of both the AAPC’s attorney and Justice Kagan appear in this C-SPAN clip in which the flush can be heard, neither has been definitively linked to the incident. According to the Washington Post, the official transcript of the argument does not include the flush.
  • The North Carolina Supreme Court has held, correctly, that the display of a middle finger does not provide an officer with “reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot,” thus justifying a stop. In State v. Ellis, the officer was assisting another driver when he noticed the defendant (a passenger in another car) waving his hand. “As Trooper Stevens turned to look towards the car, defendant’s gesture changed from a waving motion to a pumping-up-and-down motion with his middle finger.” Trooper Stevens pursued, later claiming he believed defendant was “committing the crime of disorderly conduct.” Remarkably, both lower courts bought this argument, but the state supreme court reversed.
  • The Ellis court did not need to reach the defendant’s First Amendment argument, but that would have been successful, too. See, e.g., Assorted Stupidity #122 (reporting on Cruise-Gulyas v. Minard (6th Cir. 2019) and offering a decent joke involving Ben Franklin and the Bill of Rights, said joke being hereby incorporated in full).
  • Is a concert venue liable for injuries allegedly caused by a negligent crowd-surfer? See Parnes v. House of Blues New Orleans Rest. Corp., No. 20-03176 (Orleans Parish Dist. Ct., complaint filed Apr. 17, 2020). I don’t know, but especially because it was a Sum 41 concert, I foresee an assumption-of-risk defense.
  • According to this map posted on, most U.S. circuit courts (7 of 13) use the Times New Roman font for their slip opinions, while the Second and Seventh use Palatino, and the Fifth and Federal Circuits use Century Schoolbook (as does the U.S. Supreme Court). The map is wrong as to the Fourth Circuit, at least, because that court now also uses TNR. But horrifying as it may be, it is correct in claiming that the First Circuit still uses Courier. Courier! Good God.
  • The USPTO ruled that an artificial-intelligence system cannot be listed as an “inventor” in a patent, rejecting claims made on behalf of an AI system called DABUS. The filers conceded that an AI cannot currently own a patent or other property, but argued for reasons that probably make sense to them that it should be listed as an inventor. Not happening, ruled the USPTO, because under current law an “inventor” must be a “natural person.” Cf. Naruto v. Slater, 888 F.3d 418 (9th Cir. 2018) (holding monkeys lack statutory standing to bring copyright claims). That seems like the right answer, although personally I might have hedged a little since it’ll be surprising if we aren’t in thrall to robot overlords within the next 18 months or so. And very possibly better off (except maybe for the USPTO).