“FUCK” VS. “APPLE PIE”….I admit it: I have a weakness for the word “fuck.” Today, via Unfogged, I learn of the 2003 Legal Document of the Year award from The Smoking Gun, awarded to Colorado public defender Eric Vanatta for his brief in defense of a high school student accused of calling his principal “a fucker, a fag, and a fucking fag.” It apparently so impressed the Smoking Gun judges that they decided to announce their winner even though, technically, there are five months left in the year.
In his brief, Vanatta appeals to history, linguistics, popular culture, Google searches, legal opinion, and, finally, to appropriateness:
Fuck is certainly a controversial word that may be appropriate in certain venues and locales (Florida Elections Commission, speed eating contests, public defender offices) and may be inappropriate in others (weddings, Chuck-E-Cheese pizza parlors, district attorney offices). Some people may believe it is always inappropriate. But in all but a very few circumstances, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits our government from making that determination. This case falls outside of those very limited circumstances and as such, no conviction can result from Mr. X’s alleged statements.
As they say, read the whole thing.
POSTSCRIPT: I am in no way defending the right of high school students to swear at their principals, or of their right to be defended using tax dollars better spent defending murderers and crooks, or anything else for that matter. OK? But it’s a pretty funny document and Eric Vanatta deserves a wider audience than just a local judge.
In any case, the kid copped a plea and Vanatta never got a chance to argue his motion. But I’ll bet the judge had a laugh or two.