County of La Paz v. Yakima (CA1 6/22/10)

A 48-page opinion about . . . well, the court calls it “sewage sludge.”

This is a long civil opinion and so we write this just to assure you, if you noticed the case, that no, we didn’t miss it and no, there’s nothing interesting in  it. The County filed an every-issue-you-can-think-of appeal after filing every motion it could think of before, during, and after losing a contract case at trial. The Court of Appeals humored it by addressing them all at length before affirming. The opinion mostly concerns factual details of a contract for the processing of the aforementioned. The issues of law are no-brainers except that the RAJI instruction on waiver isn’t good – it can, as the County argued, let a jury think that a waiver can be accidental; with everything else going against the County, though, this issue got short shrift. That’s what happens when you throw the kitchen sink into your briefs.

Why is the opinion 48 pages long? Well, the whole case was similarly overblown; for example, the opinion at one point mentions “Exhibit 656.” We haven’t seen the briefs but we’d be willing to risk a modest wager that at least one of them was approximately nine million pages long. Courts sometimes seem to feel that unless they produce a huge opinion somebody will think they haven’t read the huge briefs. And courts, like clients, can mistake lengthy and heavy briefs for lengthy and heavy legal thinking. Finally, a government was involved here; as we’ve mentioned before, courts will do things for governments that they won’t do for you and me, even if that simply means considering at length arguments that may not really merit it or, for that matter, be worth what Yakima was processing.

(These lawyers must have made a ton but maybe they earned it; Parker’s not a bad spot at the right time of year, and the courthouse is a pleasant little complex, but there’s nowhere as near as Blythe that we’d want to stay at long enough to try this case. The BlueWater Resort, you say? Have you tried to eat its buffet?)


(link to opinion)