Thalberg v. Meyer, et. al., 29 N.N.W.2d 933 (Supreme Court of Judicial All-Stars, 1820 – 2005)


Messrs. Meyer, Hauptmann and Lausch entered into an enterprise whereby they hoped to become quite prosperous. To that end, Hauptmann was to appropriate funds in the amount of three thousand dollars from one Thalberg, which funds would be divided pro rata between Lausch and Meyer, the remainder to remain in Hauptmann. Thus Meyer and Hauptmann would each be equity holders of one thousand dollars each, with Lausch holding for his part one thousand dollars in equity.

This arrangement worked rather well, each party to the endeavor procuring with his newfound wealth the finest jewelry and furs, until the sudden appearance of one Thalberg, who claimed to hold debts worth three thousand dollars against Meyer, Hauptmann and Lausch. The supreme trial court of errors found for Thalberg, adopting the Restatement of Arithmetic § 1, comment j. (“[F]or example, when one deducts two from two, one is left with zero.”) The superior-appellate-court-for-life reversed the judgement in a one-line per curiam opinion. (“Meyer, Hauptmann and Lausch appear to comprise on the whole Three entities, and as such have comprised a greater interest in the funds at hand, namely, that of Three people, than that of Thalberg, who in all fairness is but one entity, namely himself.”) This judgment is REVERSED with costs, namely, those borne by ourselves, in traveling to and fro.

Cardozo, J., for the Majority.

Truly, Hauptmann is a cad beyond all reckoning. Every atom of his body must truly cry out to be severed from him, to spontaneously dissolve into nothingness as a metaphysical rejection of the inhuman monstrosity that he is. Surely his offspring will bear the curses and vociferous slanderings of all mankind, even unto the fourth generation. He is stupid and has a stupid face. That is not to say, however, that Hauptmann has done any wrong in the eyes of the law. Even the most detested Pharoah of Egypt could not be faulted for blowing snuff into the face of a dead ox. Marbury v. Madison. In other words, where no remedy sounds in law or exists at equity, neither can any law equitize at existence or remedy in sound. This notion is upheld in the canonical text: Quid romanum, ex parte noblum. That probably sounds in contract also, but might sound even better in tort. In any case, Thalberg, having previously allowed the funds, with his full and unmitigated pleasure, to pass from him, will not now be heard to say that the funds in fact belong to his person, namely, to him. To be precise, the value of the debts he claims to hold is nothing by comparison to the difficulty of the factual inquiry upon which the court must needs embark if it were to determine whether or not he actually held them, which factual inquiry would be, to put it mildly, difficult. Plainly stated, quid noblum, ex romane parte. Or, as the Frogs of Aristophanes were wont to put it, “Ko-ax! Ko-ax!” Meyer and Lausch present a different case altogether. Though they owe nothing in tort or contract to Thalberg, they owe him exactly one thousand dollars each in contort. (“Tortract” being, unfortunately, not a word to be found in our jurisprudence at the present time.) If anyone needs me, I will be hanging upside down in my closet smoking ostrich feathers through a meerschaum pipe and recomposing the Epic of Gilgamesh in a written Eskimo dialect of my own creation, awaiting my inevitable and well-deserved immortalization in the annals of history.

Calabresi, J., concurring in the judgment.

[A lengthy qualitative comparison of various pasta dishes, along with an inexplicable stream of obscenities directed at unknown persons, is omitted.]

Posner, J., with whom Easterbrook, J., joins, dissenting.

We have forgotten why it was that we dissented. Having only recently completed construction of the physical campus of the Chicago School of Lawconomics in Hyde Park’s imaginary Saul Bellow district, we are exhausted and find it quite difficult to apply first principles to this case. Most troubling is the fact that of the four parties involved, we are unable to determine from the record which was in possession, ex ante, of the greatest wealth and thus would extract the most utility from the funds to be awarded in this case. Lacking this most basic finding, we are forced to turn to our fledgling theory of Greatest Productivity Incentivization: Where one party seeks damages from another, the party seeking damages is likely to pay a large portion of his potential winnings to law firms, who are known to encapsulate their winnings into galvanized steel tubes and launch them into space, thus resulting in a Keynes-ish multiplier of approximately zero. Thus where it cannot be determined which party is the most deserving on account of his superior assets, all defendants must prevail over all plaintiffs at all times.

Ginsburg, J., dissenting.

This case is not properly before us. According to Judicial Amendment VI of the William O. Douglas Bill of Penumbras, the Supreme Court of Judicial All-Stars has jurisdiction only in limited instances, namely (1) criminal prosecution instigated by the Justice League or the Superfriends, (2) civil litigation in which one party to the litigation has established inherent diversity by kneeling on the Four Corners and refusing to move, or (3) by writ of See-I-Told-You-So from the No Spin Zone.