An attorney arguing in front of the Supreme Court used a word that does not exist, and Justice Antonin Scalia just could not help but correct him.
Randolph “Dolph” Barnhouse was arguing that a city government may not bring a RICO suit to recover uncollected taxes on cigarettes shipped from low-tax jurisdictions to higher tax jurisdictions.
He was in the first few minutes of his argument when he made a small slip-up.
“[B]ut any recovery would not be property until it became choate, until there was an amount of money assigned to it,” Barnhouse said.
“There is no such adjective — I know we have used it, but there is no such adjective as ‘choate.’ There is ‘inchoate,’ but the opposite of ‘inchoate’ is not ‘choate,'” Scalia responded.
The transcript says there was laughter in the courtroom, and then Barnhouse and Scalia had some back and forth about “gruntled” not being the the opposite “disgruntled.”
We have to hand it to Barnhouse, who quickly interjected that he belived he was right on the law.
And we certainly are not intending to make fun; should we ever argue in front of the Court we hope we’ll just be able to string a sentence together. Plus maybe, someone suggested, Barnhouse was once a student at the posh Choate Rosemary Hall.
His resume seems to indicate, however, that he is a longtime New Mexican — and now one who will forever have his own Scalia anecdote.
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