Taylor Swift, Apple, and John Robert Demos Jr. as Pirates: A Day In The Life of Frivolous Lawsuits

Readers, each day I get an email listing all of the new cases filed in the US District Court here in Boston, with a brief description of what they are about. Recently, two of them caught my eye. I thought I would share them and then reflect a little on the frivolous lawsuit genre.

The first, Darrow v. Swift, was brought by Travis Darrow and Travis Donnelly, who are both currently in prison in Pennsylvania (I’m not sure why). The defendants are Taylor Swift, who needs no introduction, and Apple, Inc. This is an example of what I call the “jiggery-pokery” school of frivolous claims: fantastic, almost poetic, surreal.

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift. Credit: Jana Zills
But first, let me say a word about Taylor Swift. I’m a forty-one year-old Boston lawyer. I didn’t want to like Taylor Swift. But some of her music is so good and catchy. It’s ridiculous, really.

Okay, back to the case. Here are the allegations, in all their awesome glory.

We came up with the idea of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ album just like Zuckerberg stole Facebook. In 1989 we created the Apple I-Phone too. Our intellectual property. 1989 we were at the Boston Garden and came up with Taylor Swift’s 1989 bright idea. Apple Inc. pelted our heads with apples—Taylor Swift is Eve. Defendants are rotten to the core. We are scared Taylor Swift has Pennsylvania ties. We are frightened of her. She might cut out our voice boxes for whistleblowing. In 1989 we were riding bikes next to Swift Trucking. Taylor Swift put a stick in our bicycle spokes. We flipped and Swift flipped us off. Apple Inc. gave Jobs cancer. Apple Watch watches us. We are worried sick. Panic attacks.

We seek a restraining order against Taylor Swift from singing her lyrics about us and we feel Swift is lip-synching and sold out her country roots. Swift also pick-pocketed us for our Apple iPhones and stole our credit cards to call Ticketron on her own concerts to sell her own concerts out as a form of manipulation and cooking the books. Taylor Swift is trouble. We seek restraining orders, please.

Wow!

The second case is brought by John Robert Demos, Jr., apparently a long-time vexatious litigant who claims to be from Morocco. (He apparently has claimed in the past to be a Native American, and it appears he is serving a lengthy prison sentence for robbery and attempted rape in the State of Washington). This is from what I call the “applesauce” school of frivolous claims, full of archaic legalisms, odd uses of quotation marks, and strange references to international law.

Here is Demos’s claim, with some edits.

The State of Washington may not make a lawful arrest “outside” of its jurisdiction, or state boundaries. The 10/18/1820 Treaty of Doak’s Stand. The 1795 Treaty of Greenville. “Piracy” is never a neutral act. The piracy was committed “inside” the jurisdiction of the United States rather “outside” the jursidiction of the United States by privateers, bandits camouflaged and disguised as Washington State law enforcement officers/personnel who committed robbery on the high seas. All acts of piracy may be proceeded against, as a foreigner petitioner is under the protection of the Vienna Convention on Consular and Diplomatic Relations of 1963 and the Alien Tort Statute. The U.S. is not at war with Morocco.

The motives of a pirate are plunder, revenge, booty, hatred, and wanton abuse of power. The U.S. was not at war with Morocco at the time of Petitioner’s capture. The words ‘prize’ and ‘capture’ are not interchangeable. There is no distinction between capture by private ships and capture by dragoons and privateers.

I was forcibly placed aboard a ferry/cruise ship and forcibly returned to the State of Washington at gunpoint from Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Washington State. The piracy took place in maritime waters from ship to shore. I was transported by ferry boat across multiple states by way of rivers that ran through multiple states until finally arriving in Washington State.

I am a foreign national. I hail from Rabat, Morocco. As a foreign national, only the U.S. Attorney General has jurisdiction over my person, not the State of Washington. The U.S. Attorney General most notify the appropriate embassy of a foreign national’s detention.

I am not posting this to encourage anyone to laugh at these prisoners. Nor do I think it’s permissible to waste a court’s time with this sort of thing, and there are statutes that will, I am sure, lead to the quick dismissal of these cases at the very outset. I do think, though, that there is a kind of literature or poetry in these cases. They are a slice of Americana. Call me crazy—I kind of like them.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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