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My full name is William Wiley Bedsworth II. That is technically erroneous in terms of naming rules. I am technically not a “second.” Because I was given the same name as my father, the rules say I should be a “junior.” The Roman numeral two is supposed to be reserved for those named outside the direct line, such as an uncle. But my family (both sides) is from the South, and my mother was scared to death that if she hung that “Jr.” on my name, the family would replace my first name and just call me Junior — a fate she correctly considered far more stigmatic than ugliness, stupidity, or a career on the bench. So she went with the Roman numeral and hoped for the best. (1) I trust she received her reward in heaven, because nothing I could do down here could adequately repay her for saving me from that. I’m convinced if I had gone through life as Junior Bedsworth, I would today be installing aluminum siding in East Carwash, Miss. I mention this now because my chosen profession is currently struggling with name issues. Name issues! Isn’t that amazing? Who could have called that? One of the things I like most about life on this planet is that crises seem to pop up where you least expect them. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that my colleagues and I would have more work generated by SLAPP motions this year than by robberies. That’s where I thought the next crisis was brewing. Instead, it looks like name usage is going to be this year’s hot issue. Name usage? Who knew? FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE Certainly not Diana Bijon. According to the Los Angeles Times, Diana and her fiance, Mike Buday, had agreed they would take her last name and become Mr. and Mrs. Bijon after their wedding. Seems Diana and her sister are the last in her family line, and she thought it would be a nice gift for her father if she found a way to keep the family name alive. A nice gesture, right? A little unusual, a little avant-garde perhaps, but, hey, as the groom said, “No big deal.” I mean, he’s in love with the woman. He’d probably call himself Engelbert Humperdinck if it would get her to the altar. (2) They figured, what the hell — if she could take his name, why shouldn’t he be able to take hers? Well, as it turns out, that is not a rhetorical question. It turns out that if Diana had wanted to become Mrs. Buday, the county of Los Angeles was willing to oblige her. No charge. Just mark that box on the marriage-license application. But if Mike wanted to become Mr. Bijon, he had to file a petition, pay a $320 fee, advertise his intention for four consecutive weeks in a newspaper of record, dye his hair green, stand on one foot for three hours, and appear before a judge. While only the last raised Eighth Amendment issues, the whole thing just reeked of a denial of equal protection. So Mike and Diana have filed suit (3) in federal court to force the state of California to let Mike stop using his . . . well, his maiden name and allow future couples to choose which name they want to adopt. That should keep one or two judges busy who might otherwise be deciding which of my phone calls to terrorists can be monitored. MELEE IN MAYBERRY And when those judges are done, they can move on to Andy Griffith v. Andy Griffith. Honest, another name problem. Trust me, folks, these name cases are the wave of the future. If the feds are smart, (4) they’ll find some way to assign this case to the same judges who handled the little ditty ’bout Mike and Diana. They can set up a Court of Names to go with the Court of Claims, thus establishing a rhyming symmetry lacking in the federal court system lo these many years. Griffith v. Griffith, aka the Sheriff Andy lawsuit, is a classic in much the same sense that the old “Andy Griffith Show” is: better to look back on than to go through again. But, be that as it may, some poor federal district judge (5) is going to have to preside over it before she can get to a real case, so let me explain what’s going on. Seems one William Harold Fenrick decided he wanted to be elected sheriff in Grant County, Wis. Seems he decided William Harold Fenrick did not sound sheriffy enough. So he changed it to the name of the most famous sheriff in America: Andy Griffith. Not only were the citizens of Grant County not impressed (Ersatz Andy came in third), but Opie’s dad was seriously ticked off. So, seriously, he filed suit against the un-sheriff for invasion of privacy and copyright and trademark infringement. He wants disclaimers published all over Grant County, he wants a public apology, and he wants Andy Griffith 2.0 to have to spend the rest of his life referring to himself as William Harold Fenrick! This one’s gonna take years to sort out. For one thing, Andy Griffith wasn’t the most famous sheriff in America: Andy Taylor was. We all knew Andy Griffith was just an actor portraying the true-life adventures of the real Andy Taylor, just as we knew Fess Parker wasn’t the real Davy Crockett, raised zombie-like out of a 100-year-old grave by Walt Disney and Marie Laveau. For another, the plaintiff’s name is Andy Samuel Griffith. The defendant took the name Andrew Jackson Griffith. The names are not the same. This is like Muhammad Ali suing someone for boxing under the name Moe “Hamhead” Ali. (6) And, finally, Fenrick is quick to point out that he was unsuccessful. His defense — besides the two lovely ones I’ve just pointed out for him — is that “During this campaign I never sold or profited even one nickel from the use of the name Andy Griffith or any item bearing the name Andy Griffith. Everything was a promotional item, and everything was given away for free.” Well, in that case, no problem. Infringe and violate all you want. That oughta resolve that once and for all. PLEASE DON’T PUNT Which allows me to get to my favorite name-usage dispute: Brees v. Brees’ Mom. Sadly, this one never actually reached the level of a lawsuit. Which is really too bad, because it woulda been a hatful of snakes the likes of which you just can’t put together anywhere but Texas. Seems one Mina Brees, an Austin attorney, campaigned for the Texas Court of Appeals using, inter alia, a television commercial (7) that featured her son, NFL quarterback Drew Brees. Seems innocuous enough, right? I mean it’s not like she wanted to change her name or his name or her husband’s name or anybody else’s as near as I can determine. She just wanted to use his picture in his football uniform because, as the daughter of a successful high school football coach and the sister of a University of Texas quarterback and the mother of a professional quarterback, she said she had, “through sports, [learned] a strong work ethic that she would bring to a career as a judge.” (8) But Drew objected. Vociferously. He complained that since he had refused to use his mom as his agent six years ago, their relationship had “crumbled.” According to the Austin American-Statesman, (9) he was tired of the “lies and manipulation” and felt they had no relationship. He threatened to sue unless Mom stopped using his likeness. Mom, pointing out that everything in her ad was true (she was, after all, his mom), nonetheless pulled the ad and ran a different one. The lawsuit was averted. This is, obviously, a very sad case. No, not the mother/son dispute, not the prospect of a grown man threatening a lawsuit against his mother for telling people he was her son. That’s not the sad part. The sad part is that we didn’t get to see it played out in court. This was a chance for the rest of the country to watch the Texas court system try to deal with a lawsuit by an NFL quarterback (a position several rungs higher than governor or cancer doctor in Texas society) against his mother (who might someday yet be elected to the appellate bench) in which his complaint alleged that her lies and manipulation had gotten so bad that she had now sunk to the point where she was telling the truth about his parentage. Now that’s entertainment. They woulda made a bloody fortune! They could have held court sessions in the Cotton Bowl during prime time. Forget “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.” This would have been like “Hockey Night in Canada” — it would have driven everything else off the air. Just imagine! The quarterback retains Racehorse Haynes. Not to be outdone, Mom hires Andy Griffith to play Leon Jaworski and Fess Parker to play Davy Crockett. (10) And William Harold Fenrick to play Stephen F. Austin. (11) Drew demands a DNA test, and Mom responds that if he keeps throwing interceptions, she’ll stipulate that he’s someone else’s kid. Texans are forced to choose sides between motherhood and football. Heads explode all over the Lone Star State. It would have been glorious. Glorious. But Mina Brees chose the high road and deprived us of all that. She withdrew the ad. Unelected? Hell, she shoulda been disbarred for selfishness. Nonetheless, it’s obvious name usage is the first hot practice area of the 21st century. These three cases are just the tip of the proverbial iceplant. Forget mergers and acquisitions; name usage is what your kid should be studying. That’s the lesson I get out of all this. And that’s what I’m gonna tell my daughter Junior.
1. Despite the suggestion of my Uncle Floyd that if she used the Roman numeral, he would always refer to me as “Number 2,” a suggestion that was met by my mother’s promise that if he did so even once, she would see to it that he never had children of his own. 2. OK, maybe that’s going a little far. I mean, nobody with a blood-alcohol level below 0.2 would choose to be known as Engelbert Humperdinck, right? It’s one thing if you’re a German opera composer born with that name in 1854 and your mother accepted it because otherwise they were going to name you “Junior.” Then you’re just stuck with it. But no one with a perfectly acceptable name like . . . say . . . Arnold George Dorsey would willingly adopt the name, right? 3. And the ACLU. I mean, this case fairly shouts ACLU, don’t you think? 4. Insert your own footnote here. I don’t have the nerve. 5. This column is the only place you ever see the words “poor federal district judge” combined in a sympathetic sense. I sure hope they’re appropriately grateful for my attempts to humanize them — especially after the previous footnote. 6. Yeah, I know the analogy’s imperfect because that is obviously a wrestler’s name, not a boxer’s. But a few minutes ago, when I could remember my point, I thought this analogy made it, so I’m gonna stick with it. 7. Even appellate elections are bigger and better in Texas. 8. Despite this irrefutable premise, she lost. Texas voters inexplicably chose someone else. 9. That’s the name of a newspaper, not a candidate. But I’ll bet William Harold Fenrick would be sheriff today if he’d changed his name to Austin American-Statesman. 10. Always a good name to have on your side in Texas. 11. Or Austin American-Statesman. Either one gets you points in Texas.

William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. This article previously appeared in The Recorder , an ALM publication in San Francisco.

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