John Barrette

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September 1, 2013
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John Barrette: Jurisdictionaries ain't always chances for bulldog lawyas

Ya gotta wonder what them big-city gummit lawyers is a-thinkin’ sometimes when yuh hears ’em threaten lawyas workin’ in down-the-road jurisdictionaries.

The above is like a line from an imagined short yet tall tale penned by the ghost of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Let’s say he penned it after hearing about recent developments in California and Nevada, states that Clemens — alias Mark Twain — knew intimately in early adulthood.

Twain used characters and similarly colorful dialogue in stories. Included was much of the palaver written down in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” — the short tall tale that was his springboard to fame in the 1860s.

What follows is an excerpt from the frog tale, but it isn’t about the frog Dan’l Webster. It’s about a dog named Andrew Jackson and the protagonist/owner of both frog and dog. Twain set up the frog story by writing first about the dog and his owner, a betting man at Angels Camp:

“And he had a small bull pup, that to look at him you’d think he warn’t worth a cent, but to set around and look onery, and lay for a chance to steal something. But as soon as money was up on him he was a different dog — his underjaw’d begin to stick out like a forecastle of a steamboat and his teeth would uncover, and shine like savage furnaces.”

After learning San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera threatened Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto with a lawsuit over mental patient indigents sent to California, and Sacramento City Attorney Jim Sanchez blustered about it as well, the above bulldog description from Twain’s story came to mind.

Can’t you just picture Barrister Herrera as a bull pup, money on his mind, his underjaw jutting like a steamboat forecastle and his teeth like bright savage furnaces? This is serious stuff, you know; Herrera wants a half-mil pronto or, his threatening letter says, court action is imminent. And here we figured Californians were all heavy on altruism.

Trouble is, a court case could cost San Fran city coffers a piece of change, and there’s always the risk of losing rather than winning.

Cortez Masto should issue her own threats and then horse trade: Nevada won’t sue California for dumping Yosemite rim wildfire ash on Carson City and Reno if Herrera and Sanchez back off. As the ghost of Clemens/Twain might put it: Maybe them big city lawyas oughtn’ta confuse jurisdictionaries with true and actual opportunalities, no way.

Oh, and Andrew Jackson the dog died after losing a fight to a handicapped canine competitor whose handicap proved advantageous. You can look it up.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Sep 1, 2013 01:39AM Published Sep 1, 2013 01:39AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.