Monday, June 19, 2006

Joys of Firm Life # 1: Mr. and Mrs. Bear-Shark

One of the joys of legal reasearch comes up when a partner and several associates are sitting around after a conference call discussing the client's legal issues, when a novel-ish legal issue like this arises...
Partner:  I don't think they can, but can a bear and a shark be legally wed?
Of Counsel:  No.
Senior Associate:  That sounds unlikely.
Mid-Level Associate: ...
Junior Associate: [starts to stack up papers]
Of Counsel:  Junior Associate, why don't you find some cases on point?
Junior Associate:  Yes, sir.  What jurisdiction?
Partner:  Well, our client's bear lives in Utah, so look under Utah state law.
So, Junior Associate goes to find cases from a landlocked state in which a court addresses the legality of bear-shark matrimony. 
If he's lucky, he'll find a decision from 1833 in which a bear is acquitted of bigamy because his supposed second marriage to a shark was declared void ab initio or some such narishkeit
More likely, he'll find a case in which a court decides a custody dispute between a bear and an Atlantic salmon without addressing their marriage.
Junior Associate:  I believe we can infer that bear-fish marriage is allowed under Utah law.
Of Counsel:  But a salmon is a bony fish, and sharks are cartilagenous fishes.  Isn't there anything directly on point?
Partner:  My ex-wife is a salmon.
Then he hits the treatise.  Last updated 1981.
Treatise:  The traditional view on carnivore-fish marriage was expressed in the principle, "A bear and a shark may marry, but where shall they build their nest?"  Supervening developments have cast this early view into doubt.  Woe be unto the lawyer who wades into the fell littorals where shark and bear do court.  Addressing the issue in dictum, Judge Brow quipped, "In what states do a bear and shark marry?  Anywhere they should wish!"
When Junior Associate reports his findings to the team they will (much like you, now) not be entertained.

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