More Chutzpah:

From Yates v. City of New York, 2006 WL 2239430 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 4):

The word chutzpah, despite not debuting in a reported judicial opinion until 1972, [citing Kozinski & Volokh] is now vastly overused in the legal literature. Yet in a case such as this -- in which an individual, after being mauled by the 450-pound Siberian tiger he had been raising inside his fifth-floor apartment along with an alligator, sues the city and the police who entered the apartment in an effort to rescue the animals for doing so without a search warrant -- it is a most appropriate term to use....

In the early afternoon of October 1, 2003, Antoine Yates was mauled by his pet 10-foot-long, 450-pound adult male Siberian tiger named Ming that Yates had been raising inside his fifth floor Harlem apartment.... An anonymous caller twice dialed 911 and said that a man had been "bitten by dog" at Yates's address .... Police officers responded to the apartment building, which was owned and operated by the New York City Housing Authority, and found Yates "lying face-up on the floor" near the fifth story elevators "screaming and crying in pain." His wounds included a gash below his right knee that exposed the bone and a half-inch cut to his right forearm. Yates told the officers he had been bitten by "a large brown and white pit bull." EMS personnel arrived on the scene and took Yates to Harlem Hospital; all the while, Yates continued to insist that a "pit bull" or "dog" had bitten him.

Two days later, on October 3, the New York City Police Department ... received an anonymous tip that a tiger was living inside 2430 Seventh Avenue, Apartment 5E, and that the tiger had mauled a man who was recuperating at Harlem Hospital. Officers responded to the location but did not enter the apartment because no one answered the door. Later that evening, the police returned to the building and interviewed one of Yates's neighbors, who said that there was "a large wild animal," apparently a "full-grown tiger," living in Yates's apartment. The neighbor said that Yates had shown the animal to her daughter and that "large amounts of urine" sometimes cascaded from Yates's window down into the window of her apartment. The police also went to Harlem Hospital to speak with Yates, who insisted that he had been bitten by a pit bull in the stairwell of his residence and that he did not own a tiger.

At midnight, NYPD Captain Michael Polito interviewed Yates's brother Aaron, who said that Yates had both a fully-grown tiger and a large alligator living inside his apartment. Aaron also said that on the night before, he had opened the door to his brother's apartment, thrown in several pieces of raw chicken and watched as the tiger came toward the food....

Oddly enough, despite Yates' chutzpah, the court acknowledges that the legal question -- whether the warrantless search was justified by the "exigent circumstances" exception to the warrant requirement -- is quite difficult, though it ultimately concludes that the police officers are shielded by qualified ammunity "because it was objectively reasonable for them to believe they were complying with the law." (I myself am puzzled why they didn't get a warrant, given that they ultimately didn't enter the apartment until more than twelve hours after they were pretty sure that there was a tiger inside.) But that is a story for another day.

fishbane (mail):
I myself am puzzled why they didn't get a warrant, given that they ultimately didn't enter the apartment until more than twelve hours after they were pretty sure that there was a tiger inside.

Have to agree. There was no good reason not to, and the 12 hour gap clearly doesn't support any sort of emergency condition reasoning I've seen elsewhere - nobody was running away, the officers were not in danger (until the opened the door...), no evidence was being destroyed, etc.
8.9.2006 9:09pm
William Spieler (mail) (www):
I think that this is another case where "chutzpah" is overused.
8.9.2006 9:36pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
It sounds like a legit question to me. I mean, it isnt like the tiger was going anywhere, and I dont think anyone was in danger as long as they stayed out of the apartment.

I remember laughing when I first heard of this case a few years ago.
8.10.2006 12:53am
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8.10.2006 3:45am
carpundit (www):
It's easy to second-guess the failure to get a warrant, and not at all easy to understand what decisions were made, and by whom, and when. It was a <i>tiger</i>, for pete's sake. Likely, no one was thinking about evidence collection, or criminal proceedings, or the privacy rights of (the lying) Antoine Yates, who could have gotten them all killed. Probably, they were thinking -more or less- "Holy S--t, there's a <i>tiger</i> in there. How are we going to get that thing out without killing anyone?"

Save the Monday-morning quarterbacking.
8.10.2006 9:53am
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
As an associate at Skadden, Irish Catholic me once attempted to use the word "chutzpah" in a legal brief. It was promptly deleted by the Jewish partner on the case.

Luckily, no tigers were involved.
8.10.2006 11:12am
Richard Bellamy (mail):
I see nothing incompatible with having a colorable legal rationale for one's position (even a correct one), and requiring chutzpah to utilize it.

For example, a person who raises pit bulls and has been sued numerous times for their conduct is bitten by his neighbor's ferret, and alleges that strict liability should apply since ferrets are "inherently dangerous". He may be perfectly correct, but it still takes chutzpah to make the case.

Irrespective of whether it was used properly here, the presence or lack of "chutzpah" is completely unrelated to the rightness or wrongness of the argument.
8.10.2006 11:39am
deepstblu (mail):
A little bit of humor in the opinion: "He later said that his brown, three-to-four pound 'dwarf rabbit' was also missing [along with other items] [...] The whereabouts of the rabbit have not been ascertained (Yates Dep. at 205:13), but there is no indication in the record that Al the alligator was questioned in that regard. The Court suggests that he may be more knowledgeable on this issue than he has disgorged to date."
8.10.2006 12:07pm
Third Party Beneficiary (mail):
"Save the Monday-morning quarterbacking."

Pretty much the entire American legal system is premised on "Monday morning quarterbacking" (except for prospective injunctive relief, which I guess would be "Saturday night quarterbacking") so you need to find a different argument.
8.10.2006 12:41pm
carpundit (www):
Yes, of course, nearly everything in court is reviewed. I meant that, such review having been accomplished, it would be nice to see a little recognition of the fact that it's easy to say "they should have gotten a warrant," but not at all easy to get a tiger out of an apartment, or know what steps to take in doing so.

Rather than mention Monday morning quarterbacking, I should perhaps have said, "Give them a break."
8.10.2006 2:09pm
The neighbor said that Yates had shown the animal to her daughter and that "large amounts of urine" sometimes cascaded from Yates's window down into the window of her apartment.
Ok, so it's a little quirky to fix on such a detail, but the logical thing to do if one desires to dispose of urine would be to pour it into the toilet and flush it, right? Especially if one is trying to hide a tiger and an alligator?

Anyway... If one were going to find one word that summarizes the uniquely American approach to law and the legal system, I think "chutzpah" would be a strong contender.

cathy :-)
8.10.2006 2:21pm
big dirigible (mail) (www):
I don't see how this case is consistent with the standard example of legal chutzpah (the parricide demanding leniency because of his new orphan status). Yates seems to be about some guy being a more-or-less standard jerk. The fact that an exotic and potentially hazardous animal happened to be involved hardly elevates Yates out of "jerk" status.

The rationale for excusing the police for skipping some necessary procedures, merely because they were overwhelmed by the novelty of it all, also seems evasive. When a tiger is involved, I should think we would want the police to be more careful than usual. And that means, among other things, that elementary oversights should be caught before they result in disaster. Somebody should consider obvious questions such as: Is it hungry? Is it ill? (Both factors could reasonably be expected to influence its behaviour while being moved.) Where's the nearest vet with tiger experience? Ditto for animal trainer? What sort of guns should we have on standby? (The usual ammo for dealing with heroin dealers and bank robbers may prove unsatisfactory if a tiger is involved.) And, do we need a warrant? These are all reasonable and pertinant questions, and I think the general public should expect that those involved thought them through beforehand.
8.10.2006 4:29pm
Does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy while (a) illegally (b) raising wild animals (c) on government property? He can claim it is his residence, but I would think the definition of "home" for any reasonable person would including the clauses like "lacking large predators such as tigers and alligators" and "without urine cascading out the windows"...
8.10.2006 5:42pm
Robert Lutton:
Scalia's "professional" cops strike again.
8.10.2006 8:50pm