Obiter Dicta

Reptile Rebuff

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Chomper, Hisser and Snapper are not furry and cuddly, but that doesn’t matter to James “Bugs” Brown.

He still thinks they make darn fine pets—and with names like that, we hope he keeps them well-fed.

Brown has kept the two alligators and a caiman in separate heated and fenced ponds at his Tualatin, Ore., home for years without incident. But a neighbor, who operates a day-care center at her home, caught a glimpse of the prehistoric beasts and made an alarmed inquiry to town officials regarding regulations and licensing.

City attorney Brenda Braden says the ordinance addressing animals kept within city limits “allows only the keeping of normal household pets.” So, if it doesn’t roll over, tweet or use a litterbox, it’s pretty much “animal non grata.” “Our concern is the safety of our citizens,” Braden says. “These are not domestic animals.”

Brown’s attorney, Joseph McDon­ald, says Brown’s raptorial reptiles qualify as normal household pets because he got them from a pet store. He sees the brouhaha as nothing more than “species discrimination.”

The City Council proposed an ordinance banning alligators and other exotic animals, but the measure was scaled back, then tabled, after strong opposition from citizens.

Brown, who faces a fine of up to $1,500 per day, will learn the fate of his cold-blooded compadres when he appears this month before a municipal judge. He vows to move out of town if the city clamps down on him.


Judge Decries Disagreements of Disputatious Duo, Hands Down Decree to Display Digits

Picking a neutral site for a deposition is not usually an issue over which opposing counsel bicker. But when Florida attorneys D. Lee Craig and David J. Pettinato couldn’t agree on a venue, Judge Gregory Presnell decided to enter the field of alternative dispute resolution.

Presnell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida grew weary of the frequent bickering between Craig and Pettinato, both of Tampa, in their ongoing litigation over an insurance settlement stemming from Hurricane Charley in 2004.

In early June, Presnell made it abundantly clear that he had reached his limit of tolerance. He issued an order stating that Lee and Pettinato were going to settle their difference over the deposition site by playing a game of “rock, paper, scissors.”

As any kid can tell you, the game is played as follows: On cue, each player puts forth a hand that is either closed to signify a rock, spread wide to signify paper, or displaying the index and middle fingers to signify scissors. Rock crushes scissors, paper covers rock, and scissors cut paper. Judge Presnell even stipulated that the contest would take place on the steps of the Sam M. Gibbons Court­house if Lee and Petti­nato were not able to agree on a location on their own. In late June, however, the order was vacated. Pettinato claims he didn’t take it personally. “The judge issued the order to make us re-evaluate our position,” he says. “I don’t think he did it to embarrass us.”


Stories by the Oregonian and the Tampa Tribune; research by Wendell LaGrand

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