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Calif. Judge Cites Festivus to Justify Inmate's Special Meals

Judges are people too. Which means that, on occasion, they can exercise compassion and/or display a sense of humor.

Judge Derek G. Johnson of the Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court did one or both of those when faced with an inmate's renewed request for "double-portion kosher meals" while incarcerated in the County's Theo Lacy jail. As reported by the Orange County Register (via the ABA Journal), the judge initially signed off on the request in April. But county officials weren't having it; kosher food is apparently more expensive than salami (though the two are not mutually exclusive, as any kid from New York knows).

When questioned, the inmate, Malcolm Alarmo King, candidly admitted that he wasn't Jewish. He just didn't think the oft-served salami sandwiches were healthy enough, and needed more calories to "maintain his physique." Thus, when asked by jail officials about his religion, he replied that he was an adherent of "Healthism."

King then appeared before Johnson for sentencing, and pleaded guilty to one of the counts against him. Since he realized he would be spending more time on the inside, he renewed his request for the double-kosher meals. The judge, realizing that "Healthism" wasn't gonna fly, called counsel to the bench and asked what religion he could put down on the necessary paperwork to legitimize King's meal choice.

King's lawyer, Fred Thiagarajah, suggested Festivus. Festivus, of course, is not a religion, per se, but rather the holiday made famous by the Costanza family on one of the undisputably greatest episodes of Seinfeld ever produced. 

Despite the county attorney's "airing of grievances," Festivus was a good enough answer for Johnson, and he again ordered that King was to be given non-salami meals. According to The Associated Press, the Sheriff's Department was, eventually, able to get the judge's order overturned.

So score one for Frank Costanza. King may need to start thinking about some feats of strength pretty quick, as he's been transferred to federal custody and is awaiting deportation.


Posted by Eric Lipman on December 14, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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