78-year-old Judge Richard Posner is Chicago’s most feared judge who describes himself as “a cat person.”
Posner has long been known for his love of his Maine coon, Pixie, and Pixie’s dear late predecessor, Dinah. Posner even posed with Dinah for a New Yorker portrait once.
He has also been known to reduce lawyers who practice before him to a quivering wreck of nerves.
Last week, while writing an opinion in the case of Eike v. Allergan, a class-action suit in which plaintiffs claim eye drops made by six pharmaceutical companies are too large, he used a clever metaphor about cats to express himself.
“Suppose the class members all happened to own pedigreed cats,” the judge began, referring to the “class” or those filing the suit. “And the breeders who had sold the cats to the class members had told them that as responsible cat owners they would have to feed the cats kibbles during the day and Fancy Feast at night and buy a fountain for each cat because cats prefer to drink out of a fountain (where gravity works for them) rather than out of a bowl (where gravity works against them) and they don’t like to share a fountain with another cat.”
We’re with you so far, go on.
“And suppose the buyers do as told, buying what they are told to buy from pet stores, but it turns out that the cats have large appetites, the cat food is quite expensive, and the fountains are expensive and not wholly reliable. The breeders had made no misrepresentations, concealed no information, answered all questions of prospective buyers truthfully. Nevertheless many of the buyers are dissatisfied. They think — maybe correctly — that the cat food is needlessly expensive and the fountain a fragile luxury.
“Yet would anyone think they could successfully sue the breeders? For what? The breeders had made no misrepresentations. Had a prospective buyer asked one of the breeders what the annual cost of maintaining the cat would be, the breeder would, let’s assume, have given him a realistic estimate. There would be disappointment in the example given, but no cause of action.”
In plain language, the plaintiffs don’t have a case and the judge really loves cats.
Last year Posner used a less elaborate “cats v. dogs” metaphor in a ruling on Ubers versus the taxi business.
As for Pixie, Judge Posner tells the Chicago Tribune, “She’s a real sweetie. It’s one of the reasons I work at home a lot now.”
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