Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Monday, May 30, 2022

Pop Culture and Fictitious Parties

I have blogged before on judges using pop culture references in judicial opinions. In my mind that remains an interesting, debatable issue. What is not a debatable issue, or at least should not be an issue, is the ability of fictitious characters from pop culture to file lawsuits. But, just in case you are confused, a Pennsylvania Court has made clear (albeit in a non-precedential opinion) that Tom Bombadil, a character from the Lord of the Rings, cannot bring a cause of action to retake possession of trailers that were lost in a previous lawsuit for non-payment of rent. 

The procedural history of the case is a bit dicey, but apparently several storage trailers were left on property belonging to a Gail Gustafson.  According to the complaint filed by Tom Bombadil and a Timothy Parr, "Tim Parr was renting the open space from Appellee Gail E. Gustafson and that there was a breakdown of the relationship resulting in the six trailers and the contents therein remaining on the land." A landlord tenant lawsuit resulted in Parr losing "access to the six trailers and the personal property contained therein." Here is where things get confusing. It was at this point that Parr and Bombadil, acting pro se, filed suit to regain possession of the trailers. They apparently claimed "that Tim Parr is a fictional tenant against whom the Appellees obtained an order for possession in the underlying landlord tenant matter." 

Gustafson argued that the complaint should be dismissed for several reasons, including that it "was initiated by fictional characters such as 'John Michaels' and 'Tom Bombadil,' and because Timothy D. Parr regularly denied his own existence." The trial court held a zoom hearing on Gustafson's preliminary objects, but discontinued the hearing in favor of an in-person hearing after the Tom Bombadil who appeared on zoom was "unable to conduct himself with the requisite decorum for a court proceeding." Neither Bombadil or Parr appeared at the in person hearing.

Although Bombadil and Parr timely appealed, the Pennsylvania court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the action. It also ordered the trial court to award attorneys' fees to the Appellees and identify "the party against who that award will be directed." 

The moral of the story? Well, the Pennsylvania court summed it up quite well--"An appeal taken by a fictious individual to avoid preclusive effect of a prior judgment is more than frivolous and that alone would warrant the imposition of attorneys' fees."

Thanks Derek Muller who blogs at Excess of Democracy for sharing the opinion!

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Posted by: Aurora Tower | May 30, 2022 6:20:23 AM

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