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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lebowski in Law Wiki-land?

Not too long ago, I was trying to find an online version of  Near v. Minnesota, and the first google hit I got was a Wikipedia entry about the case.  I noticed that Wikipedia describes Near as “a United States Supreme Court decision that recognized the freedom of the press by roundly rejecting prior restraints on publication.”  This is a more or less accurate way of describing the case, but what jumped out at me was the phrase “roundly rejecting prior restraint,” which seemed eerily reminiscent of a line from this exchange in the cult classic The Big Lebowski:


Walter Sobchak: Now so far, we have what appears to me to be a series of victimless crimes.
The Dude: What about the toe?
Walter Sobchak: Forget about the fucking toe!
Coffee Shop Waitress: Excuse me, sir. Could you please keep your voices down? This is a family restaurant.
Walter Sobchak: Oh please, dear? For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint.


What does this mean?  Could it be that “roundly rejected” is a commonplace term that happened to arise in both Lebowski and law Wiki-land simultaneously?  Perhaps, but I don’t think so; at least in my experience, “roundly rejected” is relatively rare phrasing (according to Westlaw, the Supreme Court has used the phrase a total of seven times in its history, but never in the context of the First Amendment, and not in Near).  Could it be that the folks who created the Near v. Minnesota Wikipedia entry slipped in a nod to Lebowski, hoping that other fans of the film would notice it?  This is my preferred theory, but I’ve got no proof.  Could it just mean that I’m obsessed with The Big Lebowski?  Perhaps, but hey, that’s how the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuating itself.

P.S.  Related trivia:  the location where the above scene was filmed is Johnnie's Restaurant, on Fairfax and Wilshire, only a few blocks from where I work at Southwestern Law School.  Johnnie's is a classic 50's style diner, one so iconic that its owners have ceased to operate it as a diner and now use it only for renting out for movie, TV or music video shoots (you may also recognize it as the setting for Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" video from 2007).

Posted by Dave_Fagundes on May 6, 2010 at 01:39 PM in Odd World | Permalink


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You're killing your father, Larry.

Posted by: Jay Wexler | May 7, 2010 9:24:09 AM

It's a complicated case, David. Lotta ins. Lotta outs. Lotta strands to keep in your head, man. But Bunny, she was was from Moorhead. And the Coens, they're from Minnesota too. There are many facets to this. Many interested parties.

Posted by: Mark Edwards | May 6, 2010 4:58:33 PM

Don't be fatuous David. Lebowski quotes are now everywhere. You want a quote? I can get you a quote, believe me. There are ways, Dave... Hell I can get you a Lebowski quote by 3 o'clock this afternoon. Anyways great post but d'ya have to use so many cuss words?

Posted by: OL | May 6, 2010 2:32:46 PM

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