4 of the Wackiest Cases Ever Heard By the Supreme Court

You know how you know the Supreme Court is serious business?  It uses the word supreme.  You only get that in really good nachos and Toyotas.  Regular courts can half ass around with the law and maybe the judge is naked under his robe and stuff, but in the Supreme Court, things are serious.  All the judges have been handpicked by a government robot, and are all Biblically old and wise, supposedly.  They rule with an iron fist and don’t tolerate shenanigans.  Or so you’d think.  Turns out the truth is a little lackluster.

Nix v Hedden

In what could be the most serious legal question of all time, the case of nix v Heddon sought to address whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.

Why does anyone give a flying fig whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable in legal terms?  Tax purposes.  The Tariff Act of 1883 says imported vegetables require a tax, but not fruit, another in a long line of reasons no one likes vegetables.  If tomatoes were vegetables, they should be taxed.  But botanists say a tomato is a fruit, right?  Potentially there’s a hell of a lot of money that either should or shouldn’t be paid to someone here.

The court ruled that just because a tomato is botanically a fruit, no one cares.  You don’t eat tomatoes for dessert and no one ever has.  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, a tomato is a vegetable, so suck it and pay your taxes.

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

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Picture it: 2002 and the Winter Olympics are on the way.  Schools in Juneau, Alaska decide to take this opportunity to allow students to watch the torch run by on its way to Salt Lake City.  It is at this event when student Joseph Frederick unrolls a big ol’ banner that says “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.”  When he won’t take the banner down, he’s suspended for 5 days.  He then sues the school for violating his rights.

In an initial ruling the school won, but in the 9th Circuit it was overturned, where judges deemed that the student’s First Amendment rights had, in fact, been violated.  Now on to the Supreme Court!

The school hired Kenneth Starr, famous cigar-enthusiast from the Monica Lewinsky debacle back in the day, and after much debate over what the hell “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” actually means (aside from the obvious) the Supreme Court rules that, given the statement seems to encourage an illegal activity and the function could be construed as a school-controlled activity, the principal had authority to censor the banner.  Dang.

Roy Orbison V 2 Live Crew

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Remember 2 Live Crew?  In the 90s, they discovered you could mix rap with swearing and sex, and the rest is history.  Back then it was pretty novel though, and they really made the words “Me so horny” come to life again.  Beyond that contribution to culture, the Crew also made some legal strides towards greatness after making a parody of the Roy Orbison song “Pretty Woman.”

Even if you’ve never heard what 2 Live Crew does with their music, the previous paragraph surely gave you some idea of where they might take a parody of Pretty Woman.  They asked Orbison’s record label for permission to make the song and were turned down.  So like any responsible musicians who have a good joke to tell, they recorded the song anyway and were promptly sued.  The Supreme Court, however, in a unanimous decision agreed that 2 Live Crew’s version passed the test for being a parody and was therefore protected under the First Amendment.  2 Live Crew are warriors for justice and for America itself, when you think about it.

The Autumn Brothers

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Johnny and Edgar Winter are a pair of legendary blues singers from Texas.  They also happen to suffer albinism and are known for their long white hair and beards.  No big deal.  Now DC Comics has a comic series called Jonah Hex about the Wild West and things occasionally got a little supernatural in it, like when the series introduced the Autumn Brothers, a pair of albino, half worm villains who murder people in the old west and have tentacles in their chests.  No big deal.

As it happens, the Winter brothers were not fans of the Autumn brothers and sued DC Comics and the creators of the characters for unfair use of their likeness and assorted other things you sue people for when you feel someone has turned you into a murderous half worm creature.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court in the 90s where DC won out because of that zany parody law again, and the fact that probably any fan of the Winter brothers who legitimately gets them confused with the Autumn brothers has bigger issues than just thinking there are worm-musicians out in the world who travel back in time to kill people every now and then.