Willett v. Harrell: The Battle for Appellate Pop-Culture Dominance

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Last week, Justice Don Willett of the Supreme Court of Texas made news by citing extensively to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in a dissent from denial of review. Receiving much less media attention was a September 3, 2014 opinion by Maryland’s own Court of Appeals Judge Glenn Harrell, who similarly began a dissent from denial of certiorari by quoting Otter from National Lampoon’s Animal House: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile … gesture be done on somebody’s part.”[*]

It’s a slow week for appellate blogging, so let’s play the feud!

  Willett Harrell Advantage
First in Time, First in Right 12/19/2014 9/3/2014 Harrell
Importance of Issue Who qualifies as a member of the “electronic media” under Texas law? Should Maryland abandon contributory negligence? Push
Movie’s AFI Comedy Ranking Unranked 36 Harrell
Movie’s Rotten Tomatoes Score 80% 91% Harrell
Number References to the Movie in Opinion 4 2 Willett
Media Coverage of Opinion Houston Chronicle

How Appealing

Volokh Conspiracy

lots more

The Daily Record Willett (sorry, Steve Lash)
Accessibility of Opinion On court’s website and should appear on Westlaw soon. Not on court’s website and not on Westlaw. (Wow this really was a “futile gesture.”) Willett
Judge’s Overall Body of Pop Culture References in Opinions I’m not sure, but Harrell is hard to beat. Vast, including:

Up in Smoke

History Of The World, Part 1

Cool Hand Luke

Notting Hill


Judge’s Internet Presence Over 11,000 Twitter followers.

Over 12,000 Facebook likes.

Happy to be retiring before e-filing comes to Court of Appeals Willett
Number of Letters in Judge’s Last Name 7 7 Push
Double-Consonant Pairs in Last Name 2 2 Push (Has anyone seen these guys in the same room?)
Seniority Joined his court in 2005 Joined his court in 1999 Harrell
Tremendous Upside Potential 48 years old Facing mandatory retirement in 2015 Willett
Robe color Basic black Red Harrell
Flattering NY Times Profile Yes No Willett
Home Field Advantage I’m willing to mess with Texas for this limited purpose. This is the Maryland Appellate Blog, after all. Harrell

At least from my biased perspective, Judge Harrell is the narrow winner of this fake contest. A poll is below for you to tell us who won the battle of movie citations in opinions dissenting from the denial of discretionary review.

[*] In 2013, Judge Harrell was on the dissenting end of a 5-2 vote to adhere to strict contributory negligence. Two members of the majority were retired judges sitting by designation, leading some to speculate that the Court might soon revisit the topic. But when a new petition raised the question this year, Judge Harrell found himself alone in voting for review, and he took the unusual (in Maryland) step of penning a dissent from the denial of certiorari. He found inspiration in Otter’s famous line.

7 responses to “Willett v. Harrell: The Battle for Appellate Pop-Culture Dominance”

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