Another Perspective

The Ninth Circuit Experience

Eavesdropping on a historic moment of opinion-making.

By 8.5.10

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Last week a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a Tex-Mex restaurant chain must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for violating the American with Disabilities Act.

The appeals court said Chipotle Restaurants violated the disabilities act because a wheelchair-bound customer could not see his food being prepared above a 45-inch-high counter and therefore was denied the complete "Chipotle Experience."

As an empathetic person, I tried to put myself, if not in the judges' shoes, then at least in a closet in the eminent jurists' chambers, thereby eavesdropping on an historic moment of opinion-making:

(Judges return to their chambers, take off robes, loosen ties, unbutton pants, kick off shoes and recline with feet on desks.)

JUDGE REINHARDT: So, how do you want to play this one?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN (Digs into dish of M&Ms. Pops several into mouth. Chews): Another damn fast food restaurant. Enough already.

JUDGE REINHARDT: They're everywhere.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Like weeds.

JUDGE REINHARDT: I was going to say cockroaches.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Them too. We used to have this nice strip over on Hillcrest. Very chic. Mediterranean, sushi, a nice kosher deli. Then some Neanderthal builds a garage mahal and lets all these damn chains move in. Bloopies, Harbys, Jimmy Jones.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Taco Bill.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: They're the worst. Such commercials.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Yeah. The fish love that crap.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Next thing you know, half the haute cuisine joints are gone, out of business.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Of course they are. They can't compete with the swill them chains dish out. I mean, how much does a tub of pig fat cost?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: (Belches) No wonder this country's full of lard asses.  

JUDGE REINHARDT: Buzzing around in their little motorized shopping carts.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Loading up on the Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

(Pause)

JUDGE FRIEDMAN (Laughs fondly): Reminds me of when that Albuquerque jury stuck it to McDonald's after that one old bag spilled coffee in her lap.

JUDGE REINHARDT: That was some trial! (Considers.) You know what I think? I think this case has that kind of potential.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Hold on. You're forgetting -- that case was -- what do they call it? A slam dunk. This one, I mean, you must admit the plaintiff's case was a little weak.

JUDGE REINHARDT (Sullenly): Yeah. And where did they come up with this "denying the Chipotle Experience" stuff? My God!!

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Watching some pimply faced kid make your burrito. That's some experience.

JUDGE REINHARDT: How starved for entertainment was this guy?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Kind of pathetic, when you think about it.

JUDGE REINHARDT: What was this, his twentieth ADA lawsuit?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: I should keep track?

JUDGE REINHARDT (Laughs): Beats working, I guess.

(Judges silently stare at their stocking feet.)

JUDGE REINHARDT: Let's say, I mean, as a kind of thought experiment…

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Go on…

JUDGE REINHARDT: Say we were to reverse the district court any way.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: But the plaintiff's case --

 JUDGE REINHARDT: I know. Ridiculous.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: I was going to say dreadful.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Doesn't matter. All we got to say is there's been a clear violation of the disabilities act.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN (Leans forward, snaps fingers): Discrimination.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Exactly. You know what today is, don't you?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Tuesday?

JUDGE REINHARDT: It's the anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: The timing would be perfect!

JUDGE REINHARDT: That's what I'm saying.

(Pause.)

JUDGE REINHARDT: Of course, there'd be hell to pay.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN (Shrugs): Naturally.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Lots of blowback.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: They'll call it judicial activism.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Might try to impeach us.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Thank God we don't have to run for re-election.

JUDGE REINHARDT: You ain't kidding.

(Silence.)

JUDGE REINHARDT: Of course, we'd be reversed

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Right… You mean the Supremes?

JUDGE REINHARDT: Naturally. Even the lefties on the court would have to reverse.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: But at least we'd get to stick it to the junk-peddling bastards. Not a bad day's work, if you ask me.

JUDGE REINHARDT: Then it's settled?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Why not?

(Judges rise.)

JUDGE REINHARDT: You think we should run this past Judge Nelson?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: Naw. I already spoke to her in the hallway.

JUDGE REINHARDT: What'd she say?

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: She said she was going to take a nap.

JUDGE FRIEDMAN: She say anything else?

JUDGE REINHARDT: Yeah, she said, "Let's stick it to the junk-peddling bastards."

JUDGE FRIEDMAN (Laughing): That's our girl.


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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.