Monday, September 01, 2003

Still reading the John Tucker book

I never knew before now that John Tucker represented the plaintiffs in the case of Elrod v. Burns, which became the famous leading case in which the Supreme Court declared that sometimes patronage dismissals of public employees is a violation of the employees' rights under the First Amendment.

I've litigated a few patronage dismissal cases - including Harris v. Hayter, 970 F. Supp. 500 (W.D. Va. 1997), Chester v. Wise County Electoral Board, 1997 WL 381964 (4th Cir. 1997), Cooper v. Lee County, 1999 WL 631240 (4th Cir. 1999), Gilliam v. Lee County School Board, 2002 WL 31906274 (W.D. Va. 2002) - and every one was very, very interesting and lively, and so is the John Tucker book.

I recall at oral argument in the last one, the judge asked me, was there any evidence that the man who replaced the plaintiff was a Democrat? Not at all, I answered, I asked about that in the plaintiff's deposition and she said the only thing she could think of was that some of his co-worker friends were Democrats. Otherwise, she couldn't classify him, because he was from another county and did not have a "Lee County name."

But I have a Lee County name. One day when I was hanging out in the courthouse there, a fellow started talking to me and asked who I was, and when I told him, he asked me how I spell my last name. According to him, the ones who spell it with an "o" are Republicans, and the ones that spell it with an "e" are Democrats, and cited a few examples. Another time at the same courthouse, someone else told me that the exact opposite is the case, citing another few examples. Retelling this nonsense led me to another story I have now had confirmed to me several times.

A Wise County lawyer tried a wrongful death case in Dickenson County and got a much lower verdict than he thought was right or even fair, so he asked his friends in the courthouse what he had done wrong. He was told that his error was in letting a bunch of Republicans on the jury, then telling them that his man had been buried by the Democrats' funeral home - which sounds almost like a tale from this book or this book by Harry Caudill.

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