Thursday, June 30, 2011

Docket Numbers

Docket numbers in Tennessee's appellate courts are an absurdity. Something must be done about them. Their excessive length must be a burden on clerks, and they render citation to unpublished cases perversely cumbersome.

Take this docket number: M2008-02369-COA-R3-CV. Let's look at its elements:

  1. A letter, "M," standing for the Middle Division. An interesting fact as a historical matter, but 1) entirely irrelevant, because the entire Court of Appeals has statewide jurisdiction, the divisions being strictly administrative and 2) already discernible from the notation in the style that the case is on appeal from the 20th judicial district. The M can be omitted.
  2. All four digits of the year of filing. I know we had difficult with the whole Y2K thing, or at least thought we would. But we know it's the twenty-first century, and by the time we get to another one, the courts will have had to change computers again. Drop two digits.
  3. The number of the filing. This is the only element that actually needs to stay the same.
  4. Three letters telling us that this is in the Court of Appeals. This can be reduced. Tennessee has three appellate courts: Appeals, Criminal Appeals, and Supreme. We can get by with one letter: A (Appeals), C (Criminal), or S (Supreme).
  5. R3 --- I'm not actually sure what this means. It can't be that important.
  6. Two letters duplicating information we already have: "CV." The Supreme Court needs to be able to sort cases into "civil" and "criminal" categories. The other appellate courts do not, because they by definition only hear one type. Drop these letters from everything except the Supreme Court's docket numbers.
Thus, we can actually have a docket number like this: 08-02369-A. Better still if we move some elements and get A08-02369. That almost approaches federal elegance. Much better.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean

The most recent installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise came out recently. It was much better than the last two attempts. Such movies are not high art, but they can be quite entertaining. I found several things particularly encouraging about this particular one.

1. No Orlando Bloom. The man is a terrible actor, and he looks like Keira Knightley's sister to boot. His absence improves any movie.

2. The Spanish Win. The Spanish never get to win. Not only do they lose in every swashbuckling movie, they played the role of veritable bogeyman for decades. The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, even The Adventures of Don Juan (in which all the characters are Spanish):Errol Flynn literally made a career of ravaging the Spanish. And that's really too bad, because the Spanish are much more the heroes of the early modern era than the English. So getting to see the Spanish win was really quite a treat.

3. The Spanish Aren't Monsters. See #2: all the old swashbuckling movies are set-piece exhibits of Whig History, in which the Spanish not only lose, they deserve it to the hilt. The Pirates Spaniards aren't oppressing anyone, stealing anyone's property or precious English liberties, or engaging in any bloodbath. Even their religious devotion comes through without a mocking. Maybe J.J. Abrams thought that the idea of destroying a magical fountain because of its impiety cast aspersions on the Spaniards, but he certainly didn't push the point. And there aren't many aspersions one can legitimately cast upon the Spaniards: the fountain is 1) certainly dangerous if generally accessible and 2) inherently evil to use (even if not because it unnaturally increases one's life, certainly because the beneficiary uses it to murder his companion).

4. Swashbucklers are just plain fun.

Things that were unfortunate about the movie:

A. George II was not English, he was Hanoverian. In fact, he spoke very little English and did so, if at all, with quite an accent. This is certainly George II 1) because the character is old and 2) large-scale piracy (and all the famous pirates) were long dead by the time of George III's ascent in 1760. They could have played that in such a way as to make it quite funny; too bad they missed it.