Judge Norm Leopold

Judge Norm Leopold was the first judge to grant me a court judgment against a spammer, when he was acting as a pro tem judge (i.e. temporarily filling in for one day) in Bellevue District Court on December 10, 2001. That day I brought four Small Claims suits (case numbers Y15940, Y15937, Y15939 and Y15935) against miscellaneous low-profile spammers, and he granted me a judgment in each of those cases.

Under those circumstances it might seem strange that Judge Leopold is getting about an average write-up on this site, but he made some comments that cast a small shadow over my celebration of the first time I beat a spammer in court. In his ruling, Judge Leopold said:

[talking about whether a printout of the Yahoo policy page is admissible as evidence. I'm arguing that if the Yahoo policy, as read by the spammer, prohibits spamming, then the spammer didn't have permission from Yahoo to use their domain for spamming, and as such it's irrelevant whether the policy is "true". Judge Leopold is arguing that if the policy page is "offered as truth" then it is not admissible as evidence.]
Judge Leopold: You're offering it for their truth no matter how much you candy-coat it.
Bennett Haselton: Well I'm saying that it's--
Judge Leopold: If you want it to be accepted as the policy of Yahoo, it's being offered for the truth of the matter stated. Read ER-801 again sometime when you have a chance.
Bennett Haselton: I haven't read it before.
Judge Leopold: Well that might explain your confusion... 801, 802 803 might help you through that. Now this is what I'm going to do. I think that... This court feels that the anti-email statute and the anti-fax statute exist for a reason, that's to protect Washington residents. I think you've made a prima facie case, the defense didn't respond so I'm going to give you judgment for $500.
[mp3 here]

However, judges in their official capacity are not supposed to "support" or "oppose" the laws themselves -- once the law has passed, the law is not on trial -- and are not supposed to give plaintiffs any leeway because the judge supports the law that the plaintiff is suing under. On the other hand, on the question of whether the print-out of Yahoo's mail policy was admissible in court -- the question on which Judge Leopold seemed said I was wrong, but that he was going to grant me a judgment anyway -- another judge, Fred Yeatts, did allow the same print-out to be admitted as evidence in another case. So Judge Leopold, by making an unfair mistake but then making up for it by deliberately trying to be unfair in the other direction, ended up making a decision that was fair.