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Posted February 12:

Regarding the case where a Canadian student was arrested for reading a work of fiction he had composed about a violent student (Jan. 30), your linked Christian Science Monitor account reports: "Maurice Green, counsel for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, says it is 'simply not true' that the boy was arrested because of the monologue. The drama teacher 'was an experienced enough teacher to sense that this wasn't just acting. He felt ... that he was speaking from the heart. He could feel the chill in his students' in the room as the piece was recited."

I guess it was lucky Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud didn't study under this particular drama teacher. They'd have been sentenced to life. -- John Steele Gordon, North Salem, N.Y.

Re: your Feb. 2 item about the 8-year old boy who was suspended under his school's "zero-tolerance" policy for pointing a chicken finger at his teacher like a gun: The most frightening thing was the statement from the school principal who was trying to justify the suspension (quoted in the linked Associated Press story) that "It's not the object in the hand, it's the thought in the mind."

Is anyone else concerned that this sounds like punishment for a "thought crime"?   I believe the level of overreaction on this issue has become irrational.  Our schools should be encouraging open discussion of issues that concern the students -- not implementing overly severe (even Orwellian) knee-jerk responses to an 8-year old student's speech and "thought" for which the administration had decided there will be "zero tolerance." -- Brian Lake

Regarding the federal lawsuit filed in Bay City, Mich. by Smucker's over intellectual property rights to the crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich (Jan. 30): have we produced so many lawyers that now they are left with no work but instituting federal lawsuits over ownership rights to common food items that have been in use for generations? 

Two other recent cases of which your readers may not be aware: Burger King has been sued in federal court in Atlanta by Chick-fil-A because Burger King has advertised that it has "The Original Chicken Sandwich" when, according to the lawsuit, Chick-fil-A developed the chicken breast sandwich about forty years ago. (San Francisco Daily Journal, January 26, 2001, p. 7).  And a federal judge ruled against a claim by Monaco Baking that a rival, Regal Baking Co., had infringed on Monaco's holiday cookie designs (Gail Diane Cox, "Claim Crumbles in Cookie Design Battle", The Recorder (S.F.), Feb. 7).  The designs in question were pumpkin shaped orange cookies and red and green traditionally shaped Christmas cookies.  What's worse is that this case called for a cookie by cookie review by the judge if there was an impasse.  What a waste of the court's time. The following quote deserves special notice: "In a burst of admitted hyperbole, Regal attorney William Levin, of Laguna Beach, Calif.'s Levin & Hawes, said in a press release: 'Because we prevailed, grandmothers, pastry chefs and even competitive baking companies can make cookies in the shape of Valentine's Day hearts, St. Patrick's Day four-leaf clovers, or Christmas trees without fear of reprisal.'" 

Where did these companies find attorneys willing to clog the federal courts with such frivolous suits?  Enough is enough!  The behavior of my fellow attorneys makes me think about going back to an honorable profession and digging ditches for a living -- as long as Caterpillar or John Deere promises not to sue me for infringing on their patent for using steel implements to remove soil or other miscellaneous debris from the surface plane thereby creating a depression of variable dimensions for a multitude of uses.  -- William E. Davis, Esq. 

While the lawsuit of the drunk Cincinnati man (Jan. 31) is clearly ludicrous, I do want to note that the proprietor of the bar should lose his license for allowing somebody in his place of business to get a .31 BAC. The whole idea of personal responsibility, a recurring theme on your terrific site, does cut both ways.  -- John Kingston, Carle Place, N.Y.

Re the Jan. 16 letter following up on George Williams' suit concerning Louisiana racetrack bets: It might be a good idea for Mr Williams to check on one thing.  At quite a few of the tracks, the prices listed on the screens show the $3 pay-offs which is the standard minimum wager for that track.  Most wagers in off-track locations are made based on a $2 wager. So if the track says the pay off is $121.20 for a $3 trifecta bet, the pay-off on a $2 bet would be 2/3 the amount or $80.80 which happens to be what he won.  Likewise for the Perfecta. -- Charles Clark

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