The Importance of Choosing Literary References Wisely
Over at WSJ blog, Dan Slater writes about a Fair Housing Act case involving a condo association that prohibited all objects in hallways. A Jewish resident challenged the rule under the Fair Housing Act because his mezuzah was removed, claiming the rule discriminated against his religion. The 7th Circuit held for the condo association, concluding that the rule was “neutral with respect to religion” since it applied to all objects.
In dissent, Judge Wood noted a very unwise use of a Shakespearian reference in the Defendants’ brief:
Indeed, especially given the fact that the question in this case is whether a trier of fact could conclude that the defendants were intentionally discriminating against the Blochs, it was shocking to read at the end of their supplemental brief that “[t]hroughout this matter, Plaintiffs have been trying to get their ‘pound of flesh’ from Defendants due to personal animosity between Lynne and Frischholz.” Perhaps the defendants have not read Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice lately and thus failed to recall that the play is about a bitter Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who agreed to loan funds to a man he loathed (Antonio—who spit on him because he was Jewish) only upon a promise that if the loan was not paid in time, Shylock would be entitled to carve a pound of flesh from Antonio. At the end of the play, after the disguised Portia defeats the contract by pointing out that Shylock is not entitled to shed any blood while he takes his pound of flesh, Shylock is punished by losing half of his lands and being forced to convert to Christianity. This is hardly the reference someone should choose who is trying to show that the stand-off about Hallway Rule 1 was not because of the Blochs’ religion, but rather in spite of it.