Inviting strange children to your home after dark to feed them potential allergens and choking hazards? Displaying fake corpses and images of the occult? Hacking into giant gourds with huge, unsharpened kitchen knives, in close proximity to friends and loved ones? It’s not surprising that Halloween has given rise to some pretty sensational lawsuits spanning all areas of the law. From products liability (who knew it would be a bad idea to light a cigarette when dressed as a cotton-ball-covered sheep?)1 to freedom of expression (shout out to the Seventh Circuit for protecting your right to talk smack about your neighbors via fake tombstone)2. From the mundanity of premises liability (if you break your nose fleeing a haunted house right into a cinderblock wall, you’re on your own)3 to intellectual property (banana costume buyer, beware) 4.
Since tricks and treats have inspired a plethora of lawsuits, it follows that lawsuits can inspire some truly great Halloween costumes. We know you can do better than stapling some old case files to your oldest gray flannel and calling it a “lawsuit.” See below for some ideas sure to impress your friends.
Go with an oldie but a goodie (or should that be a Goody?). The Salem Witch Trials give rise to too many costumes to list here. Goody Proctor. Judge Hathorne. Giles Corey and his “more weight”. Even Old Scratch himself. Bonus points if you can figure out how to dress as ergot poisoning.
Celebrate the popularization of American courtroom drama: find a group of friends, two of whom can go as legal giants Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryant, one of whom can go as high school teacher John T. Scopes (men simply do NOT wear enough straw hats these days—this could be your excuse to buy one), and any number of whom can go as a monkey, or really any other hominid, in the Scopes Monkey Trial, which was the first American legal trial to be broadcast on the radio. H.L.
Conspiracy theory buffs can dust off their best seersucker and white linen to pay homage to Clay Shaw, who was at the center of the only trial brought for the assassination of President Kennedy, or go the more buttoned-up route and channel New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison.
Or you could venture back into the 21st Century and pick any of the colorful personalities from the Peterson case featured in the documentary The Staircase. Don’t forget to accessorize with a stuffed barred owl (not optional). (Is American Vandal more your style of true-crime documentary? If you want to dress up as Dylan Maxwell, just be sure to wield your spray paint responsibly.)
Not really into costumes? Use Halloween as an excuse to buy yourself some Manolo Blahniks or Christian Louboutins and tell everyone you’re International Shoe. (If that’s too corny for you, there have been several lawsuits in American and EU courts on those famous red soles, too.)5
If a costume based on current events is more your style, save your pennies (and your frequent flyer miles) and head to House of Bijan in Beverly Hills to pick up a $15,000 Paul Manafort suit ($21,000 titanium watch optional).
Did we miss anything? Were you able to think of a way to turn Sacco and Vanzetti or Leopold and Loeb into actually recognizable costumes? Did you nail one of the above? Be sure to share your ideas and pictures in the comments! Happy Halloween!*
*Legal disclaimer: Themis Bar Review in no way endorses Halloween, costumes, celebrating, or fun of any kind. Themis does not guarantee that your friends will be impressed by any of these costumes. In fact, Themis is pretty sure that your friends will think something is wrong with you if you dress as ergot poisoning for Halloween. Themis Bar Review makes no claims to the innocence or guilt of any of the people mentioned in this post, the validity of any of the mentioned lawsuits, and categorically denies having anything to do with the assassination of President Kennedy. Themis Bar Review is, however, staunchly committed to the Staircase’s Owl Theory.
- Ferlito v. Johnson & Johnson Products, Inc., 771 F. Supp. 196 (1991).
- Purtell v. Mason, 527 F.3d 615 (2008).
- Mays v. Gretna Athletic Boosters, 668 So. 2d 1207 (La. App. 1996).
- Silvertop Assocs. v. Kangaroo Mfg., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89532 (2018).
- Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am. Holding, Inc., 696 F.3d 206 (2012).