Courtroom Attire – The Wife Beater

The Court Commissioners hearing family law matters in my county have a name for the shirt men sometimes wear to court. It is called “The Wife Beater”.

This was a shirt with sleeves at one point, but those have been rather carelessly torn off exposing the upper arms of the man. Normally these arms bear tattoos, not that there is anything wrong with that, apparently.

Also normally seen on the domestic violence calendar are T-shirts bearing various messages about the wearer and how he is to be understood. “Eat My Dirt” with an image of a monster truck is a common message the respondent gives to the bench. Not the brightest.

Women are by no means necessarily presenting well either. Often the statement made by what is worn is “I am a prostitute” or “I am cheap, difficult, and manipulative”.

Large signs are posted outside of family court: “No Chewing Gum, No Food, No Drinks, No Firearms or Weapons, No Cellphones.” Translation: This is not the movies, the 2nd Amendment is suspended in Court, and we consider a cell phone ring as offensive as the clothes you are wearing.

40 Days to Apply for Executor is Almost Biblical

Noah and the flood, 40 days.

Moses goes up the mountain into a cloud, 40 days.

Jesus in the desert, 40 days.

Modern Lent, 40 days.

Some mention of this 40 days in Lord of the Rings to, which I am told some consider Holy Writ.

And 40 days is the amount of time a spouse can allow to lapse and thereafter leave open the possibility someone else will apply to be personal representative, or executor of the estate of a lost husband or wife.

It is written.

The Rule in Shelley’s Case

Mary Shelley has nothing to do with this but it is something of a Frankenstein’s monster, because it’s the kind of law that keeps the owner of land from doing with his farm or house or beach property what he thought he did.

First recorded as a doctrine in the case of Wolfe vs Shelley in Elizabethan England (1581)  the rule transmutes the grant of a life estate to a person, remainder to his lawful heirs to fee simple absolute in the holder of the life estate. In other words he holds the whole of the title, and not just for his life.

Say a farmer grants his son a life estate in the farm, remainder to his heirs, meaning his grandchildren. The Rule in Shelley’s Case makes this grant a grant to the son without restrictions as to what he can do with the land. If he sells off the farm to Wal-Mart there isnt anything the farmer or the grandchildren can do about it.

It was the rule in Washington until 1961 when judges began it’s erosion in cases of interpretation of wills. By 1995 the whole thing was over, the legislature abolishing the rule for all transfers whether the farmer is alive or dead.

Apparently the orginal idea was to favor the passing of land by inheritance, rather than gift. Judging by the amount of asphalt covering prime bottom land in the Puget Sound basin I think we need to return to the Rule and Shelleys case, and its closely regarded cousin, the Doctrine of Worthier Title.

It certainly would make the practice of law more fun to have all these ancient terms to throw around in court and less parking lots here in our lovely state. Instead the Middle Ages finally ended in the second decade of my law practice and we are instead trapped in some dismal economic model that allows all property to go to the highest bidder.