There are people who like to push the bounds of proper civil behavior, and then there are those with chutzpah.
What is chutzpah? Wikipedia defines it as someone who has overstepped the boundaries of accepted behavior with no shame.
Whatever you call it, Greg Barnett certainly has it in spades.
You see, Barnett sued State Farm because it refused to pay his theft claim. When he lost in trial court, he appealed the imposition of such injustice.
The judge who wrote the following must have been ready to burst: “Barnett argues the trial court erred in concluding police seizure of items pursuant to a search warrant did not
constitute a theft within the policy terms. The items seized included 12 seven-foot-tall marijuana plants, freezer bags containing a total of approximately five ounces of
marijuana and a tray with loose marijuana and rolling paper, which Barnett used for medicinal purposes.”
That‟s correct. He got raided for having a small marijuana plantation at his home and got indignant when the authorities walked off with the good stuff. In his defense, Barnett did
have a doctor‟s note that said he needed the marijuana.
When the police failed to charge him within a few months after the raid, Greg went to court and asked the judge to order the return of the items.
After the judge turned down his request, Barnett naturally filed a theft claim with State Farm. (I wonder how many of these types of claims State Farm has received before?)
State Farm, to its credit, after at first saying “No,” agreed to reconsider that decision. However, upon further reflection, the answer was still, “Nope.”
The next step was to sue State Farm. The Court of Appeal took the appeal very seriously and didn‟t talk much at all about what this guy was doing with that much weed.
Rather, the court analyzed the case as though someone was claiming that their car had been stolen, an obvious case of theft.
The court held that the police confiscating material pursuant to a lawfully issued search warrant does not constitute a theft.
As the court ruled, “Accordingly, theft „involves the idea of a knowingly unlawful acquisition of property; that is, a felonious taking of it,” i.e. to “steal” is similarly “a
felonious taking of property.”
In other words, the Costa Mesa Police did not “steal” Barnett‟s marijuana – they acquired it lawfully and then dealt with it with due process of the law. There was no “theft,” no
evil intent by the cops to acquire for themselves something that rightfully belonged to the subject of the search warrant.
So, actually the nature of the items taken didn‟t really play into the justices‟ decision. In their mind, it could have been a gun or a bag of fertilizer or a car. The marijuana was
taken because it was material to the eventual criminal case brought against Barnett. But, boy, you‟ve got to give Barnett credit. Who knows, maybe he‟ll take State Farm‟s
slogan to heart and ask them to help him replant his crop.
After all, as State Farm says, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”©