Recently, a California judge allowed an inmate’s special request for a double-portion of kosher meals. Over the objection of cost-conscious Sheriff and Orange County officials, the judge determined that the inmate had a legitimate religious reason for the request. The religion? Festivus. That’s right. The fictional December holiday also known as the “Festivus for the rest of us,” popularized in the sitcom Seinfeld.
Is it time for the Airing of Grievances yet? According to a 2001 survey, prisons average about 27 lawsuits per year per 1,000 inmates, and jails slightly less. Encouraging these absurdities dishonors the process and puts inmates with legitimate suits at a disadvantage. Prison lawsuits are the Rosemary’s Baby of litigation – it’s hideous but you just can’t look away. Judges may be (and some would argue should be) blind to public opinion, but the reality is that lawmakers are not. State legislators will use such spectacles to predictably fall over themselves peddling new legislation to curb inmate lawsuit abuse, which will snare some legitimate claims in the process.
On the other hand, I suppose that if California’s state budget is a fantasy, then fictional holidays should come as no surprise. The inmate who requested the special consideration served the remainder of his time without incident and was released. It’s a Festivus miracle!