AFSCME v. Mike Mulligan Steam Engine Co.

by Fergus Cullen

A recent Supreme Court decision overturning a ban on the sale of violent video games to minors included this unexpected revelation: Justice Antonin Scalia, 75, reads children’s books.

Writing for the court, Scalia argued, in effect, that James Madison anticipated “Grand Theft Auto” when he wrote the First Amendment; that parents who don’t want their children playing violent video games should supervise their kids (how quaint); and besides, people, have you noticed? Popular children’s books you probably read to your own kids are filled with gore.

In “Snow White,” Scalia writes, “the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers ‘till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.’ ” In Cinderella, the evil stepsisters “have their eyes pecked out by doves.” The justice reminds us that Hansel and Gretel – “children!” Scalia exclaims — kill their captor by baking her in an oven. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales…are grim indeed,” Scalia intones.

Good thing the court is familiar with children’s lit. Given today’s politics, judges might have to consider cases like these:

AFSCME Local 515 v. Mike Mulligan Steam Shovel Co.: The union representing public works employees sues Mike Mulligan on grounds that he and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, deprived union members of opportunity by doing “the work of 100 men” when they dug the cellar for the new Popperville Town Hall in just one day.

National Labor Relations Board v. Thomas and Friends, et al: NLRB contends industrialist Sir Topham Hatt fails to pay prevailing wages, forces his trains to work overtime without compensation, discriminates against female engines, violates project labor agreements and prevents the trains from organizing a union. Hatt says Sodor is a right-to-work island and that he shouldn’t be required to collect union dues from Thomas the Tank Engine if Thomas doesn’t want to be in a union.

Michelle Obama v. The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Citing the purported childhood obesity epidemic, the first lady complains the book celebrates binge eating and objects to the bug’s diet of cake, ice cream, cherry pie and a cupcake. Defense counters that the caterpillar also eats fruits and vegetables and hopes to settle out of court.

Ditzy Driver v. City of Boston Police: When Officer Michael stopped traffic for Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, Quack and Mrs. Mallard in “Make Way for Ducklings,” he caused a chain-reaction car accident resulting in whiplash injuries to Ms. Driver, who seeks damages for pain and suffering. Defense attorneys contend Driver was distracted and not following at a safe distance.

Child Protective Services v. Mom: In a child endangerment case stemming from “The Cat in the Hat,” the state charges the children’s mother with neglect for leaving the kids home alone before the cat showed up: “Sally and I did not know what to say / our mother was out of the house for the day.” Thing 1 and Thing 2 have turned state’s evidence in return for the attorney general dropping attempted murder charges involving the fish. Sally and her brother remain in foster care while the case is argued.

Department of Environmental Services v. Shel Silverstein. The state charges that Silverstein violated the Shoreline Protection Act when he cut down “The Giving Tree” without a permit. In a separate case, Silverstein is accused of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act in “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”

Americans for the Separation of Church and State v. “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”: Case claims the Grinch discriminates against non-Christian residents of Whoville.

Department of Public Health v. The Old Woman Whispering Hush: DPH contends that the house in “Goodnight Moon” is overrun with mice — one appears on every page of the book — flagrant evidence of unsanitary living conditions representing a public health risk.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Man in the Yellow Hat: PETA alleges that the Man in the Yellow Hat mistreats Curious George by keeping the monkey away from his natural habitat. PETA, a frequent litigant, also has pending cases involving Ferdinand the Bull, Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and the Berenstain Bears, and has a filed a class action suit on behalf of “101 Dalmatians.”

Fergus Cullen, a freelance columnist, can be reached at This column originally appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader on July 15, 2011.

Author: Fergus Cullen

Fergus Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party (2007-2008) and an editorial page columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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