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Monday, September 18, 2006

And Thanks for All the Fish…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about “fishing” as a metaphor for a few things, but hadn’t really put it together with anything in law.  But this evening, as I prepared to teach the classic “theft of a business opportunity” case, Meinhard v. Salmon, I wondered if this area had been somewhat overlooked from academic study.  For example, in contracts, the classic economic duress case, Alaska Packers v. Dominico, involves workers on strike at a fish cannery.  Of course, there’s the classic admonition that counsel not go off on a “fishing expedition.”  Where else they are biting in the roiling doctrinal sea?  “Take the bait”…  

Posted by Miriam Cherry on September 18, 2006 at 04:09 AM in Legal Theory | Permalink


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What about the "catch-and-release" metaphor used in several contexts, but most commonly with regard to picking up illegal immigrants and citing them but not arresting them?

Posted by: Milbarge | Sep 18, 2006 3:25:51 PM

Oh, hell. I took up fly fishing, shortly after I graduated law school, so that I'd have something to do to take my mind off law. Now Miriam's ruined everything! :-(

Actually, there is somewhat of a connection between law and fly fishing. One of the sport's great innovators, G.E.M. Skues, was a lawyer. And one of the best-known and best-loved fly fishing writers was Michigan attorney and judge John D. Voelker, who, under the pen-name Robert Traver, wrote several angling classics (as well as "Anatomy of a Murder").

Curiously, while there are fly patterns called "The Professor" and "The Silver Doctor", there is, so far as I've been able to determine, none called "The Lawyer", "The Attorney", "The Counselor" or the like. Surely a lacuna in the realm of fly-tying that some fly-fishing lawyer ought to fill.

Posted by: The Continental Op | Sep 18, 2006 3:07:59 PM

The snail-darter case is a classic statutory interpretation decision involving the ESA:

TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978).

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Sep 18, 2006 12:38:45 PM

R v Sparrow - a big deal case in Canadian aboriginal law, and very much a fishing case.


Posted by: A | Sep 18, 2006 12:04:47 PM

In Admin law we had two distinct Hot Fish cases, the one with the whitefish rulemaking and the one with the nuclear reactor (I always think of the three-eyed fish on the Simpsons). Vermont Yankee, I think the latter was.

Posted by: Eh Nonymous | Sep 18, 2006 11:40:31 AM

Oooh! I'd forgotten Wards Cove, whales, and "safe harbor." Nice.

I also just got this email:

Beth Thornburg wrote an article about the fishing metaphor in the context of "fishing expeditions" for discovery. Your blogpost, of course, already flags that use of the metaphor, but I would guess that she collects many other uses in her article if you really are fishing for more.

Posted by: Miriam Cherry | Sep 18, 2006 11:36:57 AM

What about a "safe harbor" in tax/ corporate law? There's also plenty of fish in the sea in torts cases---Rudolf v. Arizona BASS Federation comes to mind.

Posted by: Amy Landers | Sep 18, 2006 11:00:55 AM

Wards Cove v. Atonio (controversial S.Ct. case on employment discrimination in the fish cannery industry) ...

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Sep 18, 2006 9:17:54 AM

Not sure if this would qualify as "bait" but Ghen v. Rich should not be left out of a discussion of classic cases involving fish and, arguably, fishing. To be sure, the whale in the case was shot, not fished, but that seems to me a practical difference and not one that would disqualify the inclusion of the case from this thread.

Posted by: liz glazer | Sep 18, 2006 9:04:38 AM

I found your blog while searching information about the book 'Team of Rivals'. You posted about it a while ago. That post and the recent ones which I have the oppurtunity to read are very sagacious.

Posted by: Fahd Mirza | Sep 18, 2006 4:34:58 AM

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