Book Review and Author Interview: Kevin Underhill and The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance


As lawyers, and denizens of the Internet, we have all received those crazy emails purporting to list strange and counter-intuitive laws. Usually, these emails forwards – traditionally sent by owners of AOL accounts – offer no effort to verify the existence of the laws cited therein (forcing us, if still interested, to turn to Snopes). Recently, Kevin Underhill, a legal humor blogger and partner at the San Francisco office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., has done what needed to be done: he researched all of these silly laws, sifted through the urban legends, and produced a book of unusual statues from both today and days of yore. As a lawyer himself, Kevin provided the citations to these laws, thereby proving that these laws actually did – or still do – exist. The result: The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance,  a very amusing book published earlier this year by the American Bar Association. The book is named for a 1969 Skamania County, Washington ordinance proscribing “any premeditated, wilful and wanton slaying” of a Sasquatch, Yeti, Bigfoot, or Giant Hairy Ape.

In this mighty new tome, Kevin  alerts us to ancient laws once promulgated by the Greeks, Romans and other historic cultures. However, it’s the modern laws of our American states and localities which are the most amusing (and, of course, upon getting our hands on a copy of the book, we immediately flipped to the pages dealing with the Carolinas). From Kevin, we learn of South Carolina Code § 16-17-740, which makes it a crime to “sell or possess a novelty device commonly known as a ‘cigarette load’ which may cause a cigarette or cigar to blow up or explore after being lit.” Writes Kevin: “Information on the number of South Carolinians injured by cigarette loads over the years is difficult to come by, but I assume that the number is or was at one point substantial.” He also directs us to the South Carolina statutory prohibition on minors playing pinball and billiards (found in South Carolina Code § 63-29-2420 and 63-19-2430). Our favorite part: Pinball is banned outright for minors, but they can play pool with parental supervision or consent.). Again, writes Kevin: “The moral dangers of billiards and pinball themselves are not immediately apparent, although I notice that both involve physics and so maybe this open and scandalous display of ‘science’ is considered unseemly. Assuming that the danger arises from the kind of people who are (apparently) commonly found in these locations in South Carolina, we can conclude that pinball enthusiasts are considered a much greater threat, since youth pinball is illegal even with parental consent.” There must be something to this, as we also learn from Kevin that Alabama apparently bans secret passageways in its billiard halls.  (Paging Professor Harold Hill on this point.). Finally, we learn of 17 North Carolina Administrative Code 04B.0312, which provides that “[a] rattlesnake milking exhibition for which an admission fee is charged is subject to the gross receipts tax imposed under G.S. 105-37.1.” After noting that this provision was enacted “[d]espite the risk that rattlesnake milkers might fleet the state in protest,” Kevin informs us that “rattlesnake milking for charity is not taxed, however.” We wonder what happened in 2000 to require the this 1976 rattlesnake statute to be amended. Perhaps we’ll never know.

You get the idea. The book is full of these sorts of laws and Kevin’s witty commentary on them. As you can see, this is no dry enterprise; Kevin is a funny guy, and the book can be enjoyed by lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Of course, we already knew this fact as long-time readers of his law blog, Lowering the Bar, on which he also produces amusing content on a frequent basis.

As a part of this review, Kevin was also kind enough to agree to a brief email interview with Abnormal Use.

1. What has been the response of lawyers and legislators to the books?

 Those who have read the book appear to like it very much, although that statement will be a little awkward if your review says it sucks. If that is the case, I would encourage all readers (and non-readers who have someone willing to read to them) to ignore that review and buy the book immediately. As far as legislators are concerned, I have heard that law-revision projects are now being carried out in almost every English-speaking country as a direct result of the book. But I would take that with a grain of salt since the only time I have heard that was just now when I said it out loud in my office.

2. Has there been any effort to repeal any of the current laws you identified in the book?

 Other than the effort I just mentioned, not to my knowledge. I’d have expected at least the nuclear-armed-dairy-farmer lobby to have taken some action by now. Papua New Guinea did repeal the Sorcery Act last year, but I can’t take credit for that.

3.  Of all the modern laws you mention in the book, which is your favorite, and why?

It depends to some extent what you mean by “modern.” The Guano Islands Act of 1856 is one of my favorites and is still on the books, but it hasn’t been used in a while. I am a big fan of the Brazilian law that requires cell-phone companies to give a discount to people who stutter, and the surprisingly prevalent 316-word definition of “buttocks.” And just because they have popped into my head right now, I will also mention the state laws saying that a “riot” can include as few as two people (except in Alaska, where it takes six to riot).

Obviously I can’t pick just one favorite.

4. You have written much on taco-canceling. Do you foresee the taco-canceling litigation being the subject of a future book?

Probably not, if only because the efforts to turn this into a class action are likely to fail. Everyone who cancels a taco order has his or her own individual reasons for doing so. It’s not something that can be determined on a class basis. Except possibly in California, which is good news for me.

By the way, the image depicted at the top of this post is not the actual cover of The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance. Rather, it is a carefully constructed recreation of said cover by GWB associate and Abnormal Use blogger Batten Farrar. We were inspired by a previous recreation of the cover which Kevin Underhill posted on his Lowering The Bar blog back in early March. You can see that post here. The actual cover to Kevin’s book is here:


(Click here to read Keith Lee of the Associate’s Mind law blog’s review of The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance.).

Abnormal Interviews: Law Professor Rory Ryan

Four years ago today, on February 4, 2010, we here at Abnormal Use ran our very first Abnormal Interview with Law Professor Rory Ryan of the Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas.  (You can revisit that fateful first interview here.).  All these years later, we thought it would be fun to check back with Professor Ryan, so today, we continue our interview series, in which this site will conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. The interview is as follows:

1.  What should attorneys practicing in federal court be aware of as we prepare to enter 2014?

This is a reputable divorce attorney in Mesa who regularly practice in federal court probably don’t need some professor telling them about the issues they encounter daily. But for the lawyers who regularly practice in state court, a few observations might be helpful.

First, as I observed in my first interview a few years ago, the pleading standards have changed. In (at least) most cases, a pleading is not sufficient if it merely restates the elements of a cause of action in terms of legal conclusions. Some level of factual specificity is required. Most academics hate this change, as reflected by the commentary. I don’t join the revolt against requiring some factual specificity. That is, I don’t think the rule announced in those cases would be a bad enacted rule. But it is curious (and dangerous) that the pleading rules were rewritten by the unelected nine outside the established procedures for amending the rules.

Second, know what you’re getting into before filing or removing based on a “substantial” federal question. The branch of federal-question jurisdiction involving state-created claims has been altered twice since 2006. Both decisions confidently announce workable tests. But when diving for the apparent pool of clarity, you’ll land in a mirage of sand. Both Grable and Gunn are both manipulable and clarify little with respect to the cases that needed clarifying. That sad, be aware that pre-Grable cases can only be argued in terms of how they fit into the modern so-called test.

Third, if you’re thinking that the answer to your federal problem is Rooker-Feldman, you’re probably wrong. Exxon v. Saudi Basic made irrelevant most lower-court cases interpreting the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. If you’re arguing Rooker-Feldman, there’s about a 99 percent chance you should be arguing preclusion.

2.  What do you think is the most underutilized federal practice tool or technique?

Permissive interlocutory appeals under 1292(b). They aren’t disfavored and provide a perfect counterbalance to the policies served by the final-judgment rule. Denied remand motions provide a good example. (The linked piece is a coauthored article, so I feel less dirty citing myself)

3.  What was the biggest surprise from the last U.S. Supreme Court term?

Last term lacked the big surprises from terms past. Some would suggest the voting-rights case was surprising. Others would probably point to the DOMA case. In the view of a procedure nerd, however, there was nothing shocking. Just the disappointment of Gunn v. Minton not taking the approach we urged in an amicus.

4. Are there any federal-courts doctrines that are underemphasized in law schools?

First of all, thanks for asking this question. [Disclaimer, I made up the question because I wanted to answer it.] The answer is “yes.” The doctrines surrounding parallel and subsequent litigation are traditionally ignored or relegated to notes that students ignore, while students spend weeks focusing on whether Congress could remove jurisdiction over abortion cases and other professor-playground areas. Take Colorado River abstention, for example. That doctrine matters.  Then, sprinkle in interjurisdictional-preclusion principles and the Anti-Injuncton Act’s relitigation exception. A student who leaves Federal Courts understanding those doctrines will, dare I say, be more equipped to help clients than one who has read nine articles on what the Supreme Court should have done 30 years ago with its appellate jurisdiction over state-law principles.

5.  What advice would you offer to lawyers practicing in the area of products liability?

Don’t ask a federal-courts professor for advice? And read the Bartlett decision from 2013; it seems kind of important.

BONUS QUESTION: You are now a professor at Baylor Law School, where you once matriculated.  How has the football program at Baylor changed during that time, and how did it achieve its successes?

They frequently throw the ball to the correct team now, and far few players spike themselves while running. Those two improvements have been important. The rest can be explained by the genius of Coach Briles and the talent pool in Texas. RGIII probably deserves honorable mention, too. When I arrived at Baylor, the basketball program was in scandal. Women’s basketball games weren’t major events. And the football team was every opponent’s choice for homecoming. Since then, women’s hoops have two national titles. The men have been to two Elite Eights. The football team has a Heisman winner, a Big 12 Championship, and a BCS appearance. Come to think of it, this success has a direct correlation with my presence. We’ll just call it causation.

BIOGRAPHY: Professor Rory Ryan joined the Baylor Law School faculty in 2004 after playing two sports and occasionally attending classes at Morningside College. He graduated first in his class, summa cum laude, from Baylor Law School, where his final G.P.A. ranks first among those recorded. After graduating from Baylor, Professor Ryan clerked for the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He maintains an active appellate practice before both Texas and federal courts and has published extensively on matters of federal procedure and jurisdiction.

Abnormal Interviews of 2013

As readers of this site are aware, we here at Abnormal Use occasionally publish interviews with law professors and practitioners on products liability and litigation. In 2013, we published a total of six such interviews (including some with comic book creators or beer enthusiasts). Today, we list all of our 2013 interviews and provide links back to them:

Daniel Hartis, North Carolina  Beer Author (July 25, 2013)
Jill Wieber Lens, Law Professor (September 10, 2013)
Brook Bristow, South Carolina Beer Lawyer (September 16, 2013)
Ryan Ferrier, Creator of ‘Tiger Lawyer” (September 30, 2013)
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, College Athlete (October 10, 2013)
William M. Janssen, Law Professor (December 4, 2013)

As 2013 draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank the individuals listed above for being kind enough to grant the interviews. We think our site is all the better for it. And, if you missed any of the interviews, take a look!

Abnormal Interviews: Law Professor William M. Janssen

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. For the latest installment, we turn to law professor William M. Janssen of the Charleston School of Law in Charleston, South Carolina. The interview is as follows:

1. What is the most significant new development in South Carolina products liability law in recent years? What about in the regulation of medical devices?

Products liability law continues, nationally, to be a discipline in great flux, and the list of “significant new developments” could be a really lengthy one.  To my eye, among the top candidates for this distinction are the following six:

A.  Branham v. Ford Motor Company (S.C. S.Ct. 2010): The decision to reformulate our products design defect theory from a consumer-expectations/risk-utility composite into a far more predictable RAD-based risk-utility model has added great clarity to this realm of local products theory.  Now, the pleading and proof expectations for this theory are fixed: a claimant must demonstrate the presence of a feasible alternative design (which, we’re now instructed, installs an inquiry that evaluates “cost, safety and functionality”), and then show how this alternative design “would have prevented the product from being unreasonably dangerous.”  This reformulated approach to testing for design defectiveness adds clarity and more guided decision-making to what is otherwise a nearly boundlessly subjective undertaking.

B.  State v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Company (S.C. S.Ct. 2008): In this decision, our Supreme Court took sides in the great O’Connor/Brennan Asahi stream-of-commerce debate over the proper boundary-line set by the Due Process Clause in “stream”-based personal jurisdiction contests.  As “stream” theory will frequently (nearly always?) involve a products claim, settling this core inquiry over the reach of judicial power is critically useful.  By my reading, our Supreme Court took us even further than Justice Brennan had envisioned in Asahi.  Our Court reasoned that “simply placing a product into the stream of commerce is consistent with the Due Process Clause,” thereby satisfying the constitutional prescription placed on the exercise of personal jurisdiction over nonresidents.  (Sumatra Tobacco, Fn. 5)  [By comparison, Justice Brennan had qualified his view with the admonition that the Due Process Clause would be satisfied in “stream” cases “[a]s long as a participant in this process is aware that the final product is being marketed in the forum State.”  If our Supreme Court’s unqualified “stream” approach is applied literally, it would not matter whether Sumatra Tobacco knew that its cigarettes were being marketed in South Carolina or not – arguably, a much broader approach to the Due Process Clause than Justice Brennan had advocated.]  With the Court again brutally fractured two terms ago in J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, the prospects for a decisive ruling from Washington that could supplant Sumatra Tobacco now seem dim.

C.  Twiqbal (U.S. S.Ct. 2007 & 2009): More below.

D.  Federal Preemption: The uncertainties in the evolving landscape of federal preemption theory are hard to overstate.  In Buckman (2001) and Geier (2000), the U.S. Supreme Court seemed poised to give federal preemption theory a broad and sweeping application that would compromise broad swaths of run-of-the-mill products claims in prescription-only cases.  The Court seemed to retrench meaningfully in Lohr (1996) and Wyeth v. Levine (2009), only to then press out again in Riegel (2008) and Bartlett (2013).  All told, the federal preemption story is a byzantine one of 5-4 decisions, blistering dissents, and shifting majorities.  For litigants in prescription drug and device product cases, federal preemption remains a fundamentally unstable area of constitutional law.

E.  Off-Label Prescription Drug/Device Promotion and the First Amendment: The federal government and its principal drug and device regulator, FDA, have insisted that aggressively policing the off-label promotion border is critically important in safeguarding the new-drug and new-device approval process deemed essential to a safe pharmaceutical and medical device marketplace.  The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health (2011) and the Second Circuit’s long-awaited opinion in United States v. Caronia (2012) raise the specter that the Free Speech Clause may have an important role to play in the scope of regulation of off-label promotion.  Both decisions intimate that a manufacturer, promoting off-label in a manner that is indisputably truthful and non-misleading, may find a constitutional vanguard against both criminal and civil liability.  The consequences of such an outcome, caution FDA, could decimate the agency’s continued effectiveness in protecting our drug and device supply.  The final battle in this war is yet to come.

F.  S.C. Rule of Civil Procedure 30(j) (2000): In promulgating Rule 30(j), our Supreme Court noted that it was requiring “attorneys in South Carolina to operate under one of the most sweeping and comprehensive rules on deposition conduct in the nation.”  The Rule has lived up to the billing.  Products litigations are very discovery-laden enterprises, and the restrictions imposed on attorney behavior by Rule 30(j) certainly impact the reach and practice of deposition discovery in our State.  Because depositions are the most agile and unpredictable of all discovery tools, the substantial constraints on defensive lawyering imposed by Rule 30(j) qualifies, by any measure, as one of the “significant new developments” in our discipline.

2. How has the evolving Twiqbal jurisprudence affected the litigation of mass tort or mass pharmaceutical cases?

A growing body of data suggests that in employment discrimination, civil rights, and pro se cases, Twiqbal may be having a statistically significant impact in removing cases from the federal docket prior to the filing of an answer and the pursuit of discovery. Opinions vary on whether this pre-answer culling is something to be cursed or cheered.  A few years back, I conducted an industry-targeted study on the effect of Twiqbal on pharmaceutical and medical device litigation.  (71 La. L. Rev. 541).  My conclusions were mixed.  In studying 264 drug and device cases released over 15 months post-Iqbal, I found that nearly 80 percent of the time, Twiqbal had no perceivable decisional impact on whether a drug or device pleading survived or failed.  By 20 percent is still a large number, and in those cases, I could not conclude with any confidence that Twiqbal had played no role in the outcome.  That said, it remained unclear to me following this study whether it was the “plausibility” requirement of Twiqbal that was principally influential, or merely the “no-conclusions” requirement of Twiqbal.  If the latter (as I suspect, in many cases, it was), that portion of the Twiqbal approach added nothing, in truth, that was particularly new or different than the incumbent pleading-testing approaches of each of the Nation’s federal circuits.  Nonetheless, whether one perceives great change or modest change in Twiqbal, there is little question but that it has added a good deal of uncertainty to the pleadings stage of federal litigation, and is likely incentivizing great factual enhancement by federal pleaders.

3. What is the biggest challenge for lawyers practicing in the products liability field today? What advice would you give?

Our discipline is one marked by great change today.  Perhaps the biggest challenge for any products lawyer today is simply keeping up with the profound and continuing fluctuations in the substantive law we confront and the procedures through which we confront them.  Without question, the consequences of these changes can be dramatic and dispositive.  Twiqbal and federal preemption can be courthouse door-closers.  The new Branham approach to product design theory imposes enhanced burdens on plaintiffs and offers fresh vulnerabilities to defendants.  The thought that the Constitution’s free speech protections could impact products cases raise an entirely new and generally unexplored frontier.  This is an exciting time to be a products lawyer.  My advice?  Simplistic as it may sound, perhaps the product lawyer’s greatest challenge today is just keeping abreast of change.

4. Generally, how would you characterize the media coverage of products liability issues?

It’s a mixed bag, in my view.  Industry-specific media sources (like BNA specialty reporters or Law360) seem to do a laudable job of capturing nuances and practical meaning in major case law and legislative developments.  While I might take issue with a particular comment or critique in those sorts of sources, I find that, by and large, their work is fairly sophisticated (considering time and space constraints), and valuable to the practitioner.  The mass media is, predictably, a horse of a different color.  Their target audience is not the products lawyer or industry participant, but the daily news reader.  Sophistication, nuance, and reliable interpretation all suffer.  In that environment, “sound-bites” seem often to trump content.

BONUS QUESTION: Favorite pop culture lawyer?

It’s a retold answer for sure, but Vinny Gambini (My Cousin Vinny) is the hands-down pick for me.  If you pressed me for a more obscure choice, I’d go with Rudy Baylor in The Rainmaker.  I think Grisham wove an entertaining David-versus-Goliath tale, with a good number of “teachable” moments that I use with great effect in class.

BIOGRAPHY: William M. Janssen joined the Charleston School of Law faculty in 2006 after a lengthy practice with the mid-Atlantic law firm of Saul Ewing LLP, where he was a litigation partner, a member of the firm’s seven-person governing executive committee, and chair of the interdisciplinary Life Sciences Practice Group.  He concentrated his practice in pharmaceutical, medical device, and mass torts defense and risk containment.  In practice, he was involved in several high-profile drug and device cases, including the national diet drug (“fen-phen”) litigations, DES litigations, and myelographic contrast dye litigations.  He has spoken and written extensively on pharmaceutical and medical device law.

Abnormal Interviews: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger

Today, we here at Abnormal Use continue our  tribute to the 1993 film Rudy and celebrate its twentieth anniversary with a special edition of “Abnormal Interviews.” For this latest installment, we turn to motivational speaker and former Notre Dame college football player Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the inspirational figure behind the film.  That’s right.  The Rudy Ruettiger.  You know, the Rudy Ruettiger, who despite his 5’6″, 185 pound stature,  walked-on to the storied Notre Dame football team from 1974-1975 back in an era when walk-ons were much less common place than they are today.  Yes, that Rudy. Rudy’s story, as told in the film, has served as an inspiration to many.  After speaking with Rudy for just a short time, we quickly learned that his story is more than a made-for-Hollywood tale.  Rudy is as inspirational to interview as his film is to watch and made us feel as if we should pull that brief back off of the partner’s desk and add a few more citations just to spice it up.  Without further ado, the interview is as follows:

NICK FARR:  Looking back now twenty years,  what are your thoughts on how the film has resonated with viewers?

RUDY RUETTIGER:  It’s interesting, it’s affected people spiritually in a big way because of the message of – nondenominational message, not a religious message, it’s a spiritual message of not giving up, getting up when you get hit hard, keep moving forward, don’t listen to the naysayers, persevere, be persistent.  That’s the message that comes through loud and clear through the movie.  In the last twenty years, I’ve heard many stories how the movie has really helped people.   One guy came up to me that had cancer and he used to the movie to get himself in a positive state of mind to help get himself cured.  You hear all these stories  you hear of kids hav[ing] misfortune, families hav[ing] misfortune and they use the movie wording to encourage them.  To me, the movie worked as I saw it.  The movie worked as I presented it to Hollywood and Notre Dame.  It wasn’t solely about me.  It was more about the journey of life, how we look at life, how we can changes our thoughts, our thoughts control who we are, so that type of thing.

NF:  How did the movie come to life?  How did you feel once you saw a representation of your life on the big screen?

RR:  I got my inspiration through a movie that I watched called Rocky. It inspired me  to do other movies like that. Where they needed to go I thought Notre Dame would be such an elite status in America for sports and academics and you break through that.  That’s an underdog story.  So I went out to Hollywood and started pitching that.  It took ten years to find – well, eight years to find someone to listen and in the ninth year, we started the process and the tenth year we got the okay to produce the movie through a company, Tri Star Pictures Columbia Pictures.  We went through a series of mistakes and misfortunes. . . . Notre Dame was a challenge.  They didn’t want Hollywood to come in. . . . Very, very, very tough sell, but it all came together at the end.  I think God has a special way of putting things together when you do the right stuff even though you make a lot of mistakes, you learn something.  You don’t live by them you learn from them and you move on.  And I think that’s how the movie happened.

NF:  With your story personally, starting out at Holy Cross, finding your way onto the scout team at Notre Dame, and being a “undersized player”, what was your source of motivation throughout that whole process.

Rudy: That’s a good question.  I entered the Navy after high school. [The Navy] changed my whole environment, my whole attitude of life basically because it –  I didn’t know I had a learning disorder, I was kinda put down, kinda bullied.  I was put in the category of the dumb kid.  To make a long story short, I chose to go into the United States Navy, I changed my whole attitude about who I was and had confidence.  And from there I went back to work . . . I didn’t know how to pursue Notre Dame even though that dream came back.  Holy Cross was the answer.  I never went to the people, my high school counselors . . . . I went to other people who believed in me.  They said Rudy that’s a great choice  A junior college is a great choice. You go there because at a junior college great people come around you.  They want you to win.  You succeed academically and then you transfer. It’s right across the street.  And that little junior college was exposed to me just by chance.  By chance for the first time in my life I went up to the Notre Dame football game, never had a ticket.  And I saw the junior college and said there’s my answer.  It’s right there.  So that’s kinda like it all happened and from a junior college of course I made the decision not to be a scholarship player but to be part of a football tradition.  So that changed my whole attitude.  I could be part of something.  I don’t have to start.  I don’t have to do all the things they say I need to do other than contribute to that football team.  And that was a realistic choice because that was real.  I go through a lot of disappointment of course and a lot of alienation because you’re dealing with elite coaches, elite culture, elite outreach and they don’t accept walk-ons because there were 145 scholarships at the time.  And I understood that.  So I just used my Navy attitude —- do what you want, do what you need to get done.  Find a way to do it.  Because of that attitude, it happened.  By doing your work.  Do what’s important.  Showing up and everything falls in place.

NF:  Tell us a little bit about Coach Devine.  I know that some people have said that in the movie he is  portrayed as maybe the antagonist but we understand that may have not actually been the case.

RR:  Exactly, you’re absolutely right.  Coach Devine, we sat down with Coach Devine and the writer, and they started to explain to him why he had to be the heavy.  We had to do composites of other coaches and his personality because we wanted to show the real realism of college coaching and the politics.  He agreed to do that because he saw the benefit of a guy like a Rudy that could benefit a football team.  He said,  “Absolutely.”  Not that he completely understood it, but he accepted it, and again, because of the movie, once he saw it, he understood it, and he accepted it again.  It was a courageous move by him I thought for him to accept that role. And, of course, Ara Parseghian – same type of person but yet at the same time he was a tough guy, too.  He gave me a chance to walk on.  So, saying all that, as you know sports today – it’s still the same, it hasn’t changed.  Walk-ons are more accepted today because of lower scholarship demand.  And walk-ons still contribute.  So that changes everything and there’s a lot of athletes walk on and play baseball, football, national football, NBA.  And there’s great athletes that use the movie Rudy to inspire them to keep working harder. How important is that chip on your shoulder? Kobe Bryant is a great example because he uses that movie to inspire him to work hard.  Knowing that he has talent but will have to work hard even though he  gets knocked down you gotta get back up so he uses that movie. All these guys relate to that.  There’s guys in the NFL as well. . . . So my point is – my whole point is the movie p represented the underdog and you gotta show that conflict and that’s where he accepted.

NF:  How did you feel about Sean Astin portraying you on film?

RR:  Sean Astin was a perfect choice.  We were actually looking at another great actor by the name of Chris O’Donnell. He was under contract, but because of a movie I saw, it inspired me to call. Not that I was an expert on casting but I asked them if they would please look at Sean.  They liked him, and he got the role.  So, Sean Astin, basically, to make a long story short, made his career from Rudy. . . .

NF:  And you, yourself, made a cameo in the film.

RR:  Yeah, of course, you wanted to be part of that film so I wanted to do a cameo part.  But I was also encouraged by the director and the producers to do it.  I wanted to do it, why not?  When they made Secretariat, the lady who owns Secretariat, she made a cameo.  I think it’s important to make your cameos in movies like that.

NF:  Do you have a favorite sports movie?

RR:  I liked Remember The Titans.  I liked HoosiersRocky was my favorite, I think, of all.  I like Rocky Balboa.  I liked Secretariat.  The underdog type movie I think is what inspires me. . . . So saying all that and being part of all that – you put all that together and you tell yourself why not, why can’t I do it?  And that was the attitude I had.

NF:  One last question:  Do you have any predictions for the college football season this year?

RR:  Well, college football – you look at the heavyweights, your Alabamas, your Texas A&Ms, because of big quarterbacks.  I think Ohio State and maybe Alabama in the final.  That’s kinda the gut feeling I’m getting.  Who knows?  Great teams are upset, blindsided and they let their guard down.  But again, Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan – all those teams – Wisconsin, great team.  Northwestern, I mean watching them come from where they were and where they’re at today – Ohio State, great team.  I mean, it’s just – shows you some great kids out there, great coaches, Coach Peterson is a great coach.  So there is – I love college football.  It’s exciting to me.  I love the playoffs for major league baseball in October.  I love it.  It’s just one of those things.

BIOGRAPHY: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger was born in Joliet, Illinois.   He spent one year in the United States Navy following high school.  Thereafter, he worked for a power plant before applying to Notre Dame.  Due to marginal grades, he completed his early college work at Holy Cross College before finally being accepted to Notre Dame in 1974.   Following his time at Notre Dame and the release of Rudy in 1993, Rudy has served as a motivational speaker, traveling the country inspiring others through his story of determination.  He can be found on Twitter at @TheRealRudy.

Abnormal Interviews: Comic Book Writer Ryan Ferrier, Creator of Tiger Lawyer

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners and makers of legal themed popular culture. For the latest installment, we turn to Ryan Ferrier, creator of the comic book series Tiger Lawyer, in which a tiger establishes a successful career as a courtroom litigator. Take a look at the panels above – which Mr. Ferrier mentions below in response to one of our questions – and you’ll get a good feel for the character and his series. On a number of occasions, we’ve mentioned this fateful character (here, here, here, here, and here.) Last week, Mr. Ferrier was kind enough to submit to an interview with our site. Without further ado, the interview is as follows:

1) How did you first come up with the idea of Tiger Lawyer?

This is one question I get asked quite often, and it kills me that I can’t really remember the catalyst for the concept. I do remember it was December of 2011 when I tweeted something very quick along the lines of “my next comic will be about a Tiger who’s a lawyer LOL,” meaning it only as a joke. That one tweet got some pretty good traction and I was encouraged to actually write the script that became the first half of issue one—Matt McCray’s story—over the course of a cold Calgary weekend. From there the whole thing just kept growing, and once Vic Malhotra joined the team, it turned into the comic series we have today. I wish I had a more interesting story on exactly how I came up with the concept itself, but alas, I do not. It was just a blip in the brain. I may have been on the treadmill. Or in the shower. I’m afraid of all the crazy things that pop in my brain that I don’t follow through with.

2) Why a tiger?

It’s funny, I don’t really have much of an affinity for tigers, to be honest. They’re not my favorite animals or anything. I give credit to my subconscious on that one. It very easily could have been Walrus Lawyer, or Horse Lawyer. I admit there is something appealing and accessible about a tiger, though. I think it certainly works with the character’s charm and confidence. His presence. Tigers are pretty awesome though, when I really think about it.

3) What is in store for the future of the character?

Oh, we’re certainly not done with the character yet, not by a longshot! We—myself and artists Matt McCray and Vic Malhotra—are currently working on Tiger Lawyer #4. It’s the best issue yet, in my opinion. Matt and I are doing something very unique to the previous issues, but very funny. Vic and I are working on the more serious half, which is going to be fantastic. We’re really excited to take the character on a new journey, especially after how the noir arc ended in issue #3. We don’t have a release date for issue four yet, as we’re taking our time to make it the best possible book we can, but it’ll be in the not too distant future, that’s for sure.
I’ve also got plans for a spin-off Tiger Lawyer one-shot. It won’t be called Tiger Lawyer #5, but instead something totally different, but still revolving around the character.

4) What has been the reaction from lawyer readers? What about non-lawyers?

I do get a ton of comments and kindness from lawyers, and I really love it. It’s fantastic. I used to get nervous about it, as everything I know about law, I learned from episodes of “Night Court” and Hollywood films. But now I just give in to it and embrace it. I know there’s a ton of legal inaccuracies, and that’s what makes it fun. How else should a comic about a talking tiger play out? I’ve received a lot of great feedback from people in the legal field, and I’ve heard stories of people giving copies out at firm Christmas parties and stuff like that. It’s great. I feel like there aren’t many law-related things, so I’m happy to fill that void for now.

The reaction from non-lawyers has been simply amazing. I honestly cannot believe it’s gone this far, and been received so well. I give all that credit to the artists, Matt McCray and Vic Malhotra. They are the ones who have brought the character to life. The title of the book is pretty catchy, I admit, and does really well at cons, and hooking someones eyes, but it’s Matt and Vic that have been able to ground our stories and make them special. I did the sizzle, they did the steak. But it’s really been great; we sell out of books at a lot of cons, and the reaction from my peers has been really inspiring and I’m so grateful for it.

5) Where do you get the ideas for your legal story lines?

Like I mentioned before, I really only know about law from television, movies, and pop-culture. I draw a lot from that, especially those big, media spectacle trials, like the O.J. Simpson  case, and things like that. While I don’t mean to minimize the often macabre, very real circumstances that surround those cases, it’s the spectacle of the cases that attracts me to them. With a character like Tiger Lawyer, it’s got to be big and sensational.

With issue #3, though, I wanted to shift the focus onto the character instead of the trial, which is why we made it a prequel, showing Tiger’s time at Harvard law. I think there’s still so much we can do with the character without re-treading familiar waters, and issue #4 will continue that, while providing some big courtroom laughs at the same time.

6) Obviously, we’re talking about a lawyer who is a tiger. But do you make any effort otherwise to depict the legal world realistically?

I think I make an effort not to, honestly. I mean that, however, with the utmost respect and appreciation of the legal world and those who work in and around it. It’s Hollywood law, and I aim to satire just that. I think there’s a very tongue-in-cheek feeling with the series, and as nutty as it sounds, it’s my goal to have the reader think “hey, this writer doesn’t really know a lot about how actual law works.” There’s humor in that. It’s like how television news doesn’t play out in real life how it did in the film Anchorman, for example. But, I do understand how many people wouldn’t get it. Early on in the series, I heard someone complain about how Tiger objects during the prosecutor’s opening statement (which I now understand isn’t a thing that happens). This person was actually pretty cut up about it, but I laughed. It’s a cartoon world, with cartoon rules, and a talking tiger.

That’s my defense, anyways.


1) Who is your favorite fictitious lawyer?

Great question! It’s a tie between Dan Fielding (the amazing John Larroquette in “Night Court”) and Saul Goodman (the incredible Bob Odenkirk in “Breaking Bad”).

2) What is your favorite comic blog?

There are many great comic blogs, and I hate to single any out. But I will.,, and are all worthy of a daily visit.

BIOGRAPHY: Ryan Ferrier is a Canadian comic book writer and letterer. He currently writes Tiger Lawyer and The Brothers James for Challenger Comics, a self-publishing comic collective he runs with artist Brian Level. Ryan also letters Robocop: Last Stand for Boom Studios, as well as Skybreaker and Theremin for Monkeybrain comics. He can be found on Twitter at @ryanwriter.

Abnormal Interviews: @BeerOfSC’s Brook Bristow

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners and makers of legal themed popular culture. For the latest installment, we turn to Brook Bristow, a brewery lawyer based in Greenville, South Carolina. You may remember that we’ve done a few beer related interviews in the past, the first with Adam Avery of the Avery Brewing Company about its Collaboration Not Litigation Ale, the second with Daniel Hartis, the author of the book Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing In The Queen City. There have been some recent changes in South Carolina’s brewery laws, and because we like to talk about beer, we asked Brook to answer a few questions for us. He was kind enough to agree. The interview is as follows:

1.  How is South Carolina responding to the craft beer movement?

When it comes to change in South Carolina, I always like to say that we have two speeds: slow and stop. However, craft beer has been an exception to that rule. In fact, the craft beer movement has only really hit South Carolina in the last ten years. Since 2007, the law has been changed three times when it comes to local breweries. That’s incredible. Prior to 2007, brewers here couldn’t make anything over 5 percent ABW. Now, with the changes in law, our breweries are producing world class beers and are gaining notoriety nationwide. We’re producing many jobs both in the craft beer industry and related ones. Additionally, since the law was changed in 2010 to allow beer tastings at breweries, we’ve seen a proliferation in the number of breweries opening, with more on the way. We have many bottle shops throughout the state that offer growlers, bottles, and kegs. Our fan following has grown exponentially the last few years, as more and more people are exposed to craft beer. We’re also seeing a significant increase in beer tourism. On a weekly basis, there are hundreds of craft beer enthusiasts that attend tours and tastings at the breweries.  Many of these patrons are coming from surrounding states, as well as many reported foreign visitors. This is true of all of the breweries in South Carolina. We’re also having quite a bit of reach. For example, while I was in Colorado recently at Rocky Mountain National Park, my girlfriend and I actually pulled off the road to view some elk. A guy who worked at the national park actually walked up to me because he saw my Holy City Brewing shirt and started telling me about how much he loved their brown ale called Pecan Dream. It was unbelievable to see the reach that our brewers are starting to have.

2.  What do you think is the biggest legal obstacle to small brewers in South Carolina?

Prior to the passage of the new Pint Law, it would have been the inability to sell more than four 4 ounce tasters glasses to a consumer per day.  That was a big source of revenue that was being missed out on, not to mention the beer tourism implications.  The biggest issue now is probably excise taxes.  While there is some proposed legislation in Washington to reduce the federal excise rate on brewers who make less than 60,000 barrels of beer per year, the bigger problem is the South Carolina excise tax.  For every gallon of beer, there is a $0.77 excise tax.  That’s good enough for being in the top ten of states that charge the most on beer.  Compare that with states at the bottom, like Wyoming that only charges $0.02, Colorado and Oregon at $0.08, and Montana at $0.14.  That would be a big savings.

3. What do you think is the biggest obstacle to consumers of craft beer in South Carolina?

Compared to where we were a year ago, craft consumers have it pretty good in South Carolina.  Sure, you’ll occasionally hear complaints that there is a consumption limit of 48 ounces in brewery taprooms per day, but people understand how far we have come.  Perhaps one obstacle for some craft beer consumers in the state is the availability of local beer in some areas, but this has changed in recent years.  While some areas of the state do not have their own local brewery yet, we’ve seen very large growth over the last few years and certainly after the recent change in law on tastings.  I’d expect that trend to continue and for breweries to keep popping up all over South Carolina.

4. What do you think has been the biggest legal victory for the craft beer movement in South Carolina?

There have certainly been a few going back to 2007.  The Pint Law was huge and the tasting law before that was very big.  But, you have to start somewhere and the Pop the Cap movement was the catalyst for everything.  Pop the Cap was the effort to raise South Carolina’s ABW cap on beer.  When the movement started in 2005, the cap was a mere 5 percent ABW.  After a long and grueling effort to educate the public and legislators, the law was changed in 2007, which raised the cap to 14 percent ABW.  What that did was it allowed South Carolina brewers to make new beers, to be more creative, and to educate the public about what craft beer could be.  Without Pop the Cap, South Carolina wouldn’t be where it is today.

5.  What was the Pint Bill, and how did it come about? What’s next in light of that victory?

Since 2010, our breweries have been allowed to have limited tastings. Prior to passage of the Pint Bill, breweries were only allowed to serve 4 tasters to customers (at most). Usually, those were 4 ounce tasters; however, if the ABW was high enough, then the specific beer could only be a 2 ounce pour. So, at best, as a customer you could come to a brewery and only have 16 ounces in tasters. As for growlers to take off-premises, the law was the same as it is now – 288 ounces. It’s important to note that our breweries just won the right to have tastings at all in 2010. Prior to that, breweries could do nothing but produce beer. The Pint Bill was an effort to boost the revenues of the breweries and also allow them to start competing more meaningfully with the states around us, including North Carolina, which has much more expansive laws. Like everyone, we saw that those laws not only led to a boom for new local breweries, but also landed the state two $100 million plus investments by West Coast breweries that are moving East – New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. That in addition to the millions of dollars being contributed by a third large West Coast brewery – Oskar Blues. Prior to passage of the bill, those breweries wouldn’t have even considered South Carolina. However, now, we can at least provide some incentive for popular western breweries that would like to expand their operations to the east coast. The Pint Bill (now Law) provides that our breweries can sell 48 ounces a day to a consumer for on-site consumption. There are many restrictions that go along with that, but the concessions made for passage were more than worth it.

What’s next? More breweries on the way, for sure. Quite a few in fact. By my last count, we’ve got at least nine in planning with probably about four opening up in the next few months. It’ll be interesting to see how we deal with this golden age of craft beer in South Carolina. We’re well on our way to having about 20 breweries open by the beginning of next year. That’s a new experience for us. I’m hopeful that we can not only maintain those numbers, but continue to grow them and produce great quality beer.

6. How has the expansion of social media assisted in the growth of the craft beer movement?

It’s been huge.  It certainly was instrumental in getting the word out for advocacy on the Pint Law here in South Carolina.  It’s also being used with great success nationally, whether that is in Tennessee with efforts to reduce the nation’s worst beer excise tax or recently in Alabama and Mississippi to finally legalize homebrewing.  As to craft beer generally, it’s a great way to communicate with other beer fans nationally and internationally, as well as to find out what is new from the growing number of breweries across the country.  While some might complain that it has added to the sometimes unwarranted hyping of certain beers and breweries, to me, it’s like any other information source – that being you should take what you see and hear with a grain of salt, and evaluate it for yourself. If nothing else, it’s a way to keep yourself informed of what’s going on in a more up-to-the-minute sense.


Favorite South Carolina beer?

It really is hard to go wrong with craft beer in South Carolina.  Some of my favorites are Holy City Brewing’s Pluff Mud Porter, Coast Brewing’s Barrel Aged Blackbeerd Imperial Stout, Brewery 85’s Quittin’ Time, and Quest Brewing’s Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout.

Favorite North Carolina beer?

There is certainly is a wide selection!  I’ve always enjoyed what I have had from Foothills in Winston Salem and Fullsteam in Raleigh.  At the moment though, I’m fascinated with Burial Brewing in Asheville.  It’s an up-and-coming nanobrewery co-owned by a former brewery lawyer from Seattle.  Their Voorhamer Imperial Stout is one of best I have had.

Favorite non-Carolina beer?

Depends on my mood, but I’m a big fan of Founders Breakfast Stout, Heady Topper, Black Tuesday, and Parabola.

Favorite style of beer?

Easily, imperial stout.  But I also like porters and bigger IPAs.

Favorite beer related website?

Believe it or not, I don’t go on too many beer blogs. Since part of my law practice entails representing breweries, the Brewers Association website is a great resource on some of the issues involved, so I check that out on a regular basis.

Favorite song about beer?

I’ll go the dive bar route and go with George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.”

BIOGRAPHY: Brook Bristow is an associate in the office of Bradford Neal Martin, PA in Greenville, South Carolina.  His practice is primarily in business and employment law, where he represents local businesses, including several South Carolina breweries.  He runs the Beer of SC beer blog, where he focuses on legal issues affecting small brewers, especially in South Carolina.  He also works with the South Carolina Brewers Association on legislative and legal issues. You can follow him on Twitter at either @beerofsc or @brookbristow.

Abnormal Interviews: Law Professor Jill Wieber Lens of Baylor Law School

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners and other commentators in the field. For the latest installment, we turn once again to torts professor Jill Wieber Lens of the Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas. This is the second time we’ve interviewed Professor Lens, the first occasion being way, way back in December of 2010. You can read that interview here.

1. What do you think is the most significant new development in torts or products liability of the last year?

One significant new development in products liability in the last year has to be the Supreme Court’s decision Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, in which the Court found that design defect claims based on generic drugs are preempted.  The result was not surprising based on the Court’s prior finding in Pliva, Inc. v. Mensing that failure to warn claims based on generic drug manufacturers were preempted.  Both of the results are based on FDA regulations that require generic drugs to mirror the prior FDA-approved name brand version; thus, generic drug manufacturers lack any ability to alter the design of the drug or the warning.  Because of the practical inability to both comply with FDA regulations and to use a design/warning that would comply with tort law obligations, the Supreme Court has found that defective design and warning claims against generic drug manufacturers are preempted. The Bartlett and Mensing decisions have huge consequences.  After these cases, people injured by design or warning defects in generic drugs have no legal redress against the drug manufacturers.  Ironically, had those injured people taken the name brand version, their claims against the name brand manufacturer are not preempted.  But if the injured people take the generic version — which most people do because it is cheaper and state law allows pharmacists to automatically fill the prescription with a generic version — they have no legal redress against the generic drug manufacturer.  This is something to be concerned about when considering President Obama’s health care law.  Health insurance companies are likely to push generic drugs even more to further lower costs.  But patients injured by design or warning defects in the generic drugs will be unable to pursue relief against the drug manufacturer. Admittedly, this issue becomes moot if the FDA alters its rules regarding a generic drug manufacturer’s ability to change the design of the drug and the warning. That, however, would also likely increase generic drug manufacturers’ costs—and the prices of generic drugs.

2. If you could change one component of federal punitive damages jurisprudence, what would it be, and why?

I wish I could eliminate the idea of a reasonable ratio between the amounts of punitive and compensatory damages.  The Supreme Court first introduced its guideposts for evaluating the constitutionality of a punitive damage award in BMW v. Gore in 1996.  One of those guideposts is whether there was a reasonable relationship between the amounts of the damages.  The Court has never defined that reasonable relationship, but did once mention that a single-digit ratio is most likely to be constitutional.  The Court also has never applied the reasonable relationship ratio in a case involving physical injury, leaving courts to wonder if that single-digit ratio still applies in those cases. Regardless, I understand the attractiveness of a ratio — it’s easy to understand and to apply.  It’s also what many state legislatures use to cap punitive damages.  But a ratio makes little sense if you look at the punishment and deterrence purposes of punitive damages.  Punitive damages should be based on the defendant’s conduct regardless of whether the plaintiff suffered minimal or exorbitant compensatory damages.  The defendant’s same malicious conduct battering two plaintiffs could leave one plaintiff with $500 in compensatory damages and the other with $5 million based on the plaintiffs’ different ages, medical conditions, jobs, etc.  If the tortious conduct is the same, there should be no reason to lower the first plaintiff’s punitive damages simply because he had only $500 in compensatory damages.

3.  Do you similarly see any problems with state regulation of punitive damages?

Generally, I wish legislatures and courts could coordinate better.   As an example, Georgia has a provision allowing only one punitive damage award for products liability claims.  That award is supposed to punish the defendant for selling the defective product to all consumers and a portion of it is paid to the State.  The provision is problematic after the Supreme Court’s opinion in Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Williams, which constitutionally limits a punitive damage award to punishing the defendant for what it did to the specific plaintiff.  Now, put these together.  After Philip Morris, to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment, a punitive damage award in a products liability claim in Georgia can punish the defendant only for injuring the specific plaintiff.  But the separate Georgia one-award provision mandates that the one punitive damage award is the only one that can be imposed.  The two laws cannot produce a rational punitive damage award, but the Georgia provision is still the law.

4. You’ve now been a law professor for three years. What has been the biggest surprise of academia?

The students’ curiosity.  I love to see their enthusiasm to learn—they really do want to understand the material.  I also love to hear their questions.  I often hear far-fetched hypotheticals in Torts especially, but the students ask because they are curious and desire to learn.  It’s refreshing.

5. Unlike many law professors, you practiced for several years before joining the faculty. How do you believe your career in private practice has helped you as a professor?

I’m able to bring practical knowledge to class.  For instance, I am familiar with the difficulty of explaining things to clients.  And I’m able to explain that in class—you may understand that only final judgments can be appealed, but understand that you will also have to explain the final judgment rule to your client and your client likely won’t be happy about it.  As another example, I understand the importance of liability insurance in torts.  I spend time in class to make sure my students understand that even though analyzing the legal elements is not the only analysis—you may also want to find out whether the person your client wants to sue has insurance and whether that insurance covers the tort.  Otherwise, it may not be worth it either for you or your client.

6. As a law professor, how do you use the Internet to communicate with students and the general public?

I’m always trying to think of ways to use the Internet more.  I tend to be more traditional in my classes for entering students.  I also don’t allow them to use laptops because I find that they type everything down and neglect to actually listen to me. Baylor has a great Blackboard Internet system for class use.  It provides many mechanisms to increase feedback to students, which students appreciate.  One thing I would like to try at some point is to post quizzes that students can take in their free time to see if they are appreciating the material.

BONUS QUESTION: Who is your favorite television lawyer?

My answer is predetermined by my favorite shows.  I really enjoyed Oliver Babish on “The West Wing” and Baltimore’s finest representation for drug dealers, Maurice Levy, on “The Wire.”  I’m sure if there was an attorney on “Game of Thrones,” he/she also would be one of my favorites.

BIOGRAPHY: Jill Wieber Lens joined the Baylor University School of Law faculty in 2010 as Assistant Professor. In 2009, Professor Lens was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville School of Law. Before entering academia, Professor Lens practiced commercial and appellate litigation in St. Louis, Missouri. She teaches Torts, Products Liability, and Appellate Procedure. Her current research interests include tort reform generally and punitive damages.

Abnormal Interviews: Daniel Hartis, Author of “Charlotte Beer: A History Of Brewing In The Queen City”

Today, Abnormal Use continues its series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which this site will conduct interviews with law professors, practitioners and makers of legal themed popular culture. For the latest installment, we turn to Daniel Hartis, author of the relatively new book, Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing In The Queen City. Why the author of a book about local beer? The answer is two-fold. First, we here at Abnormal Use love to experiment (in moderation of course) with the greatest craft beers our region has to offer. (You may recall that we once interviewed Adam Avery of the Avery Brewing Company regarding his company’s Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.). Second, Mr. Hartis, in his book, explores not just the modern culture of craft beer but also the evolution of the legal and political climate governing breweries in his mighty tome. That gave us just enough of a hook to interview him on our legal blog (which we probably would have done anyway, despite that hook, due to the cool topic).  Mr. Hartis was kind enough to submit to a brief email interview, which appears as follows.

ABNORMAL USE: What is it about Charlotte, North Carolina these days that is so favorable to new breweries?

DANIEL HARTIS: Charlotte has become well-known as a city of transplants, and I think the current craft beer scene in the city is proof of that. Some of these transplants come from other cities with established beer scenes, and I think they expect that here and want to support the local breweries. Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation as well, which doesn’t hurt. We may not match Asheville in terms of numbers of breweries, but a larger population means we’ve probably got a larger number of craft beer drinkers.

AU:  What do you think is the biggest legal obstacle to small brewers in North Carolina?

DH: Up until recently, I would have said zoning. Breweries could only exist in Charlotte’s industrial areas, which really limited them in terms of locations. The City of Charlotte’s planning department, however, just passed a microbrewery text amendment that allows breweries to exist in additional districts. Shortly after, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery announced that they’d be moving into a larger building down the street, and The Unknown Brewing Company also leased a building just three blocks away from the stadium. Let’s hope that amendment also opens doors for Free Range Brewing, Sycamore Brewing, Regimental Brewing and Dukbone Brewing Co.

Intellectual property rights continue to be an issue, and several lawsuits have been filed in recent years over trademark disputes. Waynesville’s Headwaters Brewing Company rebranded to BearWaters Brewing Company earlier this year after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania. Craft breweries will typically avoid litigation, but expect these trademark disputes to rise in relation to the number of breweries. After all, there are only so many hop puns out there!

AU: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to consumers of craft beer in North Carolina?

DH: To be honest, I think consumers have it pretty good here in NC. In addition to the state’s many great breweries, NC is also home to bars and bottle shops devoted to craft beer. Some of the nation’s best breweries distribute here as well, and if you compared our selection of brands to other states I think you’d come away impressed ( is a good site for this).

Speaking personally, I would like to see our breweries here in Charlotte and the rest of NC start packaging in 12 oz. bottles or cans. I understand why they don’t, as bottling and canning lines are expensive and an investment that many young breweries just can’t make. Down the road, though, I hope it’s a lot easier to go into your neighborhood bottle shop and pick up a six-pack of local beer, as opposed to a growler of it at the brewery.

AU: What do you think has been the biggest legal victory for the craft beer movement in the Carolinas?

DH: Without a doubt, the biggest legal victory for craft beer in North Carolina’s history was when Pop the Cap was passed in 2005. Before this point, only beers at 6 percent ABV or less could be sold in the state. This kept out not just a certain craft beer here or there, but entire styles of beer. Go into any bottle shop in Charlotte and I think you’d be hard pressed to find all that many under 6 percent, though session beers are on the rise (and I’m a big fan of lower-alcohol beers, but it’s nice to have options!).

AU: Historically, North Carolina, and Mecklenburg County, in particular, established Prohibition locally before the 18th Amendment became the law of the land nationally. How did we get from there to here?

DH: Before Prohibition, the nation was dotted with small, local breweries, and only recently did the country surpass the number of breweries it boasted prior to “the great experiment.” The reason breweries are popping up all over the country is the same reason they’re thriving in Charlotte: people want to support local businesses, and they want to enjoy a well-crafted beer. Part of it can also be attributed to the aforementioned transplants, I think. The Prohibition sentiment was especially strong in “the Bible belt,” and perhaps a more diverse population helped diminish those attitudes toward alcohol.

AU: How did you come to write a book about the Charlotte craft beer community?

DH: I founded in January of 2011 out of a desire to write about beer and a way to keep all of Charlotte’s beer information in one central place, for my needs as much as anyone else’s. I went to school for journalism, and so I always tried to maintain a standard of quality writing on the site, even if I was just throwing up a quick paragraph about an event. In the summer of 2012, The History Press – publishers of beer books for cities like Asheville, Baltimore and Charleston – approached me to see if there was enough of a history here in Charlotte to merit a book. At that point, my knowledge of the beer history here started from 2009, the year the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery came to town. After doing some research, though, I discovered a healthy portion of brewing history, especially in regards to the ‘90s breweries. I was excited to pursue that further and learn more, and so I agreed to take the project on.

AU: How has the expansion of social media assisted in the growth of the craft beer movement?

DH: I think social media plays a key role in the craft beer world, though perhaps not more so than in any other industry. When I started the blog a couple of years ago, Blair (@QueenCityBeer) and I were the only ones using the #cltbeer hashtag on Twitter. Over time it really caught on, and now many of the city’s breweries, bars, restaurants and bottle shops use it to share Charlotte beer news, specials or events. It allows them to reach the true beer geeks in the area that follow the hashtag, just as it allows them to share beer-related info with people who may be unfamiliar.

I’ve come to meet so many good people just by talking about beer on Twitter or Facebook. What might seem like a cursory chat on the Internet often develops in a “real-life” friendship, and I’m very grateful to have made so many friends this way.


AU: Favorite North Carolina beer?

DH: With the number of breweries we have in the state producing great beer, it would be tough for me to choose just one. And that’s the beauty of our beer scene here in Charlotte, too: we are privileged to have a very diverse group of breweries that ensures there is something here for everyone.

AU: Favorite non-local beer?

DH: That really is a difficult question. If I had to choose a favorite, I think I’d go with Founders Brewing’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (aka KBS). It’s brewed with coffee, chocolate and oatmeal, and then aged in bourbon barrels for a year. And yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds.

AU: Favorite style of beer?

DH: I can honestly say there’s not a style of beer I dislike. For that reason, it’s tough for me to nail down just one favorite style. The mood I’m in, the weather, what I’m doing at the time – these can all dictate the type of beer I drink. That being said, I really enjoy stouts, Baltic porters and smoked beers.

AU: Favorite beer related website?

DH: I regularly visit Beer Pulse for beer news, Oh Beautiful Beer for beer design and Good Beer Hunting for its unique photos and writing. Oh, and First We Feast offers a really fun look at beer (and food) through a pop culture lens.

AU: Favorite song about beer?

DH: It’s not exactly a testament to the responsible enjoyment of fine beverages, but I’ll go with Sublime’s “40 oz. to Freedom.” I was a fan of Sublime well before I could (legally) drink, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Hartis is the founder of and the author of Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City. His next book, Beer Lover’s The Carolinas, will be published by the Globe Pequot Press in January 2014. When he’s not writing about beer, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. You can follow him on Twitter at @CharlotteBeer.

Abnormal Interviews of 2012

As readers of this site are aware, we here at Abnormal Use occasionally publish interviews with law professors and practitioners on products liability and litigation. In 2012, we published a total of ten such interviews (including those with a number of film and television actors). Today, we list all of our 2012 interviews and provide links back to them:

John Hart, Author and Novelist (January 12, 2012)
Jonathan Lynn, Director of My Cousin Vinny (March 13, 2012)
Dale Launer, Writer/Producer of My Cousin Vinny (March 14, 2012)
Raynor Scheine, Actor from My Cousin Vinny (March 15, 2012)
Mitchell Whitfield, Actor from My Cousin Vinny (March 15, 2012)
James Rebhorn, Actor from My Cousin Vinny (March 15, 2012)
Rod Smolla, Lawyer and President of Furman University (April 3, 2012)
Rod Smolla, Lawyer and President of Furman University (April 4, 2012)
Myra Turley, The “Seinfeld” Finale Jury Foreperson (May 3, 2012)
Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (June 25, 2012)
James Marshall, Actor from A Few Good Men (December 13, 2012)

As 2012 draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank the individuals listed above for being kind enough to grant the interviews. We think our site is all the better for it. And, if you missed any of the interviews, take a look!