Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-14

Published July 5, 2010

New York’s “Naked Cowboy” is threatening to sue the “Naked Cowgirl” for $150,000, claiming she is infringing his trademarked look.

The Naked Cowboy, Robert Burck, performs in Times Square, wearing only briefs, boots, and a cowboy hat. The Naked Cowgirl, Sandy Kane, appears in Times Square wearing only a red-white-and-blue bikini and matching cowboy hat.

Burck wants Kane to cease violating his trademark or buy one of his franchises (he’s sold at least one already) for $500 a month or $5,000 per year. The Naked Cowboy previously sued Mars, Inc. for its campaign involving M&Ms wearing similar outfits. The case settled for an undisclosed sum, according to

But The Naked Cowgirl, a former stripper known for closing her act by lighting her breasts on fire, says there’s no reason she should pay Burck a single cent. “I’ve been naked for years,” she said.

Source: Jennifer Fermino, “Cowboy: ‘Naked’ rip-off!” New York Post, June 22, 2010; “Naked Cowboy in Trademark Battle With Naked Cowgirl,”, June 23, 2010

Chip Shot

The Memphis man dubbed the “Big-Bellied Rapist” has filed a court petition to overturn his guilty plea on several counts of rape, kidnaping, and robbery, alleging police coerced him into confessing by offering him potato chips and soda.

The 275-pound man alleges police fed him only lettuce while interrogating him for days. When they offered him junk food, he quickly confessed to 19 felonies and was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

He claims he is insane and extremely paranoid about police and lawyers. He also alleges he acts in a “bizarre and violent manner.”

Source: “Big-Bellied Rapist,” WMC-TV 5 (Memphis), June 20, 2010 via

Blunt Force Trauma

An Illinois lawyer disciplinary board has recommended a six-month suspension for a lawyer who yelled at a judge. The judge said the lawyer called him a “narcissistic, maniacal, mental case, [who] should not be on the bench.” The lawyer denied he called the judge a “mental case,” but implicitly admitted to calling the judge “narcissistic and maniacal.”

In a later letter to the judge, the lawyer wrote, “As an officer of the court, I must bluntly state that you appear to have serious mental issues involving extreme narcissism and illusions of grandiosity which effectively interferes with your ability to act as a Judge.”

The lawyer was angry because the judge took custody of a 14-year-old away from the child’s mother and granted it to the father, allegedly a drug addict and alcoholic. “I am aware of your tendency toward self-promotion and your blatant insinuation that you somehow have a superior ability to ascertain peremptorily and without the presentation of appropriate evidence the best interests of children. Do you in any manner accept the reality of the jeopardy in which you placed this child?” the lawyer wrote.

The board rejected the lawyer’s defense that his speech was protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The suspension won’t be final until the Illinois Supreme Court acts on the board’s recommendation.

Source: Mike Frisch, “‘Obvious Disdain’ Leads to Suspension with Fitness,”, June 29, 2010 via above the

Night Moves

A New York ethics board recently ruled it’s ethical for judges to moonlight, so one judge, Matthew D’Emic, is trawling for gigs singing and playing rock and roll on his bass guitar and working on reviving his former band.

Two other judges asked for a ruling from the state ethics committee, which ruled judges could be musicians for a fee “for family, friends, neighbors and others who are unlikely to appear in the judge’s court.”

“Now I don’t envision that it’s gonna help much ’cause I do have a day job and I can’t really spend a lot of time trying to find jobs at night to play gigs at,” D’Emic said. “But I would like to do it occasionally–less for the money, more for the fun.”

He recently reunited his old band, Whippoorwill. “We had a ball,” said Cassone, 56. “It was like no time passed at all. I feel like I’m 18 again.”

Source: Marc Beja, “When court adjourns, NY judge plays in rock band,” Associated Press, July 1, 2010

Occupational Hazard

Three California men who burgled a residence were spotted by police as they fled the scene and a high-speed car chase followed. The driver of the getaway car crashed it into three other cars, injuring the two burglars, who were passengers. The passengers, of course, sued the driver, but the court ruled they can’t recover damages.

The burglar-passengers argued their participation in the felony burglary was not the “proximate cause” of the accident, but the court cited a statute barring recovery for injuries “in any way caused by the plaintiff’s commission of any felony, or immediate flight therefrom. …”

Source: Espinosa v. Kirkwood, No. EO48472 (Cal. App. 4 Dist., June 23, 2010 via

Suited for Suits

The Philadelphia Phillies’ mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, has the dubious distinction of being the most-sued mascot in the major leagues.

The latest suit was brought by a 75-year-old woman who alleges the Phanatic hurt her knee when climbing through the stands. It allegedly revived her dormant arthritis, and she claims he’s responsible for her knee replacements.

The Philadelphia Daily News describes the Phanatic as a “massive, green, bird-anteater hybrid,” much beloved in Philadelphia. Even the plaintiff’s lawyer says it’s “like suing Santa Claus.”

“I’m expecting him to come to a deposition, stick his stomach and his tongue out at me and not say anything,” the lawyer said.

The Phanatic has been sued at least five times in the past 20 years. “The Phanatic is fanatic, it’s in his name; he has to walk around and do crazy things,” said Bob Jarvis, a sports law professor who has studied mascot lawsuits. “Because he’s been around so long, he also has to keep topping himself.”

Source: Stephanie Farr, “Big green litigation machine; He’s fun & frantic & beloved–and may be the most sued mascot in the majors,” Philadelphia Daily News, June 30, 2010, via facesoflawsuitabuse, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, Diane Carol Bast

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:

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