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Even my best-laid plans “gang aft agley.” (Robert Burns: “The best laid plans o’ mice ‘n’ men gang aft agley.”) That concludes the redeeming social value portion of today’s column. I sat down fully expecting to read two articles in my local legal newspaper: one having to do with the application of Article II of the United States Constitution to the states’ selection of presidential electors, and one which promised the explication of Code of Civil Procedure Section 639 pertaining to special references. It was not a 30 minutes that I expected to rival sex on a beach, but I thought it would be edifying and responsible. Time well spent. Then my eye was caught by another story. My understanding is that newspapers employ people whose sole task is to write headlines that will catch the eye of innocents like me. Well, this headline writer deserves a raise. I mean, I was all set to hunker down and open my mind to the vagaries of special masters and referees and whatever the hell the founding fathers had in mind with this electoral college thing, when my eyes fairly leaped across the page to the words, “Flying Pig Wins Approval from FAA.” I submit to you that it is impossible to read anything else once you know there is an exposition of words as dumbfounding as those somewhere nearby. My first thought was that I had misread the headline. “Frying Pigs,” “Flying Jibs,” “Frigging Pies” — almost anything made more sense than that the FAA had somehow approved pigs for flight. Maybe it wasn’t the FAA at all, but the FFA. That would still leave me without explanation for the inexplicable and somewhat unnerving phrase “Flying Pigs,” but at least it would be a problem confronting the Future Farmers of America, an organization which — as far as I know — has no effect on the safety of my air travel. But it clearly said “Flying Pigs,” and it clearly said “FAA.” There were only two possible explanations for that headline: Either the local legal paper employed a headline writer who would sink so low as to flat out make something up just to keep me from reading scholarly legal articles (which would be a pretty good working definition of the word “overkill”), or the FAA had somehow come out in favor of airborne pork. My instinct was to blame the headline writer. I once came back from a two-week vacation in Canada to find headlines about a ruling that I was supposed to have made three days earlier. This was pretty remarkable to me, since I could remember that day vividly (the fan belt had broken on the rental car) and I was confident I had not taken time out in British Columbia to issue any rulings involving Orange County’s most litigious jail inmate, as the newspaper headline fairly shouted I had. Turned out a federal judge had come down from Mt. Olympus and used my vacant courtroom to hold a hearing on inmate rights. The reporter saw a judge on the bench and a name on the door and connected the dots. I spent months explaining to people that I had most assuredly not ordered the sheriff to pay damages to Bobby Crane for the Playboy magazines confiscated from his cell. Of course, most of those people knew I was lying because they had read all about it in the newspaper. It was in the headlines, for crying out loud. But while the headline writer was my most likely suspect, I was not ready to reject out of hand the rather pedestrian notion that a federal bureaucracy could have done something crazy. I carry no brief for bureaucrats, whom I regard as the governmental equivalent of Post-It notes: absolutely necessary, but not to be entrusted with anything important. Czar Nicholas I is supposed to have said, “I don’t rule Russia; 10,000 clerks do.” I’ve dealt with many of those same clerks at the DMV — older now, but still speaking only Russian as near as I can determine. Porcine flight was probably well within the Weltanschauung (yeah, I know it’s pretentious. But it’s a really cool word I’d like to see used more often, and if I don’t start, who will? Matt Drudge? Dr. Laura?) of the DMV, and, by extension, the FAA. So I was prepared to accept exoneration of the headline writer in favor of a finding of bureaucratic fiasco. But one way or the other, I couldn’t leave it unresolved. I came to the conclusion that I must, reluctantly, postpone Article II and CCP Section 639 and read the four column inches of Associated Press copy regarding the pigs. Of course, reading anything about the law is — as you probably have surmised on more than one occasion — contrary to the oath taken by all judges. At the black Mass conducted by the governor immediately before the announcement of our appointments, we all have to swear that we will never read anything ever again that doesn’t involve a box score or Tiger Woods. As I understand it, the family law judges in San Diego actually included that in their Rules of Court, and required special notification if the attorneys expected their files to be read. (In which case, a referee would be appointed under CCP Section 639 to read the papers and report back to the judge. Lammers v. Superior Court, 2000,83 Cal.App.4th 1309.) But I digress. Here’s what the article said. It said, “US Airways acted reasonably when it allowed a pig to fly first class from Philadelphia to Seattle, the Federal Aviation Administration found.” Alright, that assuaged my worst fears. No one was hallucinating pigs with wings here. The issue was whether it was kosher for a pig to fly first class. (I suppose I should rewrite that sentence, since, strictly speaking, it’s probably not “kosher” for a pig to do anything, but rewrites are another thing forbidden in the black Mass oath for judges. That should explain your last 10 petitions for rehearing.) Here’s what happened. “Maria Tirotta Andrews brought Charlotte, her 300-pound Vietnamese potbellied pig (Do we really need the adjective “potbellied” to describe a 300-pound pig? Aren’t we pretty much gonna come up with that picture anyway? I think until they breed a “Vietnamese Washboard-Stomached Pig” or a “Vietnamese Incredibly-Buff Pig,” we don’t really need an adjective here.) on the flight Oct. 17, telling the airline it was a ‘therapeutic companion pet.’ Andrews said her heart condition was so severe she needed the pig to relieve stress.” That’s what she said. She said taking a 300-pound pig on an airplane would relieve her stress. Honest. I don’t know, I suppose setting fire to the clerk’s office would relieve my stress, but it never occurred to me I could get a federal agency to sign off on that. See, I would have gotten this question wrong. If this question had shown up on my FAA Bureaucrat Qualification Examination, I would have narrowed the list of possible answers down to either “C. You gotta be kidding.” or “D. Take the lady and the pig up to about 30,000 feet and then throw them both overboard.” I like to think I would have chosen “C,” but it would have been a tough call, and I can get pretty grumpy when I have to make a decision, so I can’t guarantee anything here. I suppose this is why nobody’s breaking down the doors to get me to do alternative dispute resolution. I’m obviously not sensitive enough to the problems of modern life. I mean, I’ve had dogs and cats that I have loved dearly. I had a contraband guinea pig in my apartment the whole time I was going to law school, and I cried when he died. I love animals so much, I watch the credits after the movie to make sure “no animals were harmed in the filming of this feature.” Even if it’s a cartoon. But I’m not gonna let the lady take her pig on the airplane. She’s lucky she had the FAA calling this one and not me. After all, this is a THREE HUNDRED POUND PIG. (It occurs to me — as I’m sure it occurred to the other passengers — that only capital letters adequately convey the notion of a THREE HUNDRED POUND PIG, and therefore I will use that font hereinafter. The black mass oath requires that we use the word hereinafter a lot; I’ve been remiss.) Imagine that. THREE HUNDRED POUNDS. This is not some terrier-sized shoat. A THREE HUNDRED POUND PIG is roughly the size of Shaquille O’Neal. And not nearly as well-dressed. If you had a three hundred pound human being in the seat next to you you’d want your money back. How you gonna feel about a THREE HUNDRED POUND PIG?! It seems to me it contradicts the whole notion of “first class” if there’s a THREE HUNDRED POUND PIG in it. What about all those other passengers who paid for first class? Didn’t they have an implied agreement with the airline that they would not be sitting with farm animals? And just what is it this pig is going to do for Ms. Andrews’ heart condition? Is the pig’s name DeBakey? Is the pig a licensed psychotherapist? Did the pig take an oath the night before his appointment as a “therapeutic companion pet” to soothe people with heart conditions? (Which, as you’ve already guessed, is the opposite of the one judges take at the black Mass.) Because if he (I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to use male pronouns if you’re referring to pigs) did, he clearly violated it upon landing. That’s how this thing got to the FAA. Seems the other passengers objected, not when the pig took his seat next to Ms. Andrews (These were passengers who gave new meaning to the phrase “latter day saints.”), but when “the pig got unruly when the plane landed.” These people not only deserved a refund, but an award for forebearance. I think they had a legitimate complaint. I think when you pay $1200 for a first-class ticket, you deserve not to become the headliner in a WWF pig-wrestle. If the lady wants to bring on her golden retriever or her cat Snowball, fine. If she wants to bring on Mt. St. Helen’s the Pig, you gotta draw the line. Let me hasten to point out here that this is not special pleading. I have never in my whole life flown first-class. But I will if they start flying pigs in coach. I would have expected the FAA to be able to understand that. Hell, I would have expected the Executive Committee of the Kona Lanes Midnight Tuesday Turkey Bowl League to have understood it. But apparently I gave the FAA too much credit. I think next time I wanna go to their black Mass. William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected]

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