The Return of the Aptonym

Abigail and David, Early Adopters of the Aptonym (see note 8 and accompanying text).

Several months ago I put out the call for legal aptonyms, cases where a party’s name describes the legal rule, like Loving and the right to marry. Here’s the end result.

Special thanks to those from the CoOp commentariat who contributed cases (see the star note for the full list), and the Michigan Law Review First Impressions staff for putting up with a source cite that ranged far afield of the ordinary legal texts. My two favorite CoOp-driven additions:

Fitch v. Valentine, 959 So. 2d 1012 (Miss. 2007) (allowing an action for alienation of affection);

People v. Arzon, 401 N.Y.S.2d 156 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1978) (committing arson constitutes depraved indifference to human life).

I also received a fair amount of legal eponyms, instances where the rule becomes known by the case name– think Chevron deference or Youngstown categories. I left out those out, but it did make me wonder why certain cases because eponyms and others don’t.

Importance of the case no doubt plays a major role; if there isn’t a big legal principal, it’s unlikely to be an eponym. But I don’t think that’s the whole of it. For a trivial example, no one talks about judicial review as “Marbury scrutiny” or assesses whether a given law falls within Congress’s “McCulloch powers.”

Food for future thought.

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