Legal Roundup: And Juggastice For All

The Hollyweird Legal Round-Up is our weekly guide to the latest entertainment lawsuits and lawyerly pud-slinging, broken down for you in even MORE esoteric jargon by our legal correspondent, real-life entertainment lawyer who, for professional reasons, writes under the name “Buttockus Finch.” This week, he takes on the Juggalo legal wrangling everyone’s been talking about.

Guten tag, lumpenproletariat!

No time for jibber jabber today. Sh*t done got real.

1. ICP, But In a Sense, We All CP.
For the edification of the uninitiated, let it be known that Filmdrunk has long documented, and, indeed, championed, all things Insane Clown Posse. The founding of this site, in retrospect, seems to have begun an unwitting countdown to the day that ICP and the ACLU joined forces. But could anyone have dared dream that the two most feared and revered acronyms in all the land would step to the FBI and the Department of Justice? Well toss a bottle of Faygo to Lady Liberty, kid, because homegirl’s about to get down with the clown:

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, along with the Detroit music duo Insane Clown Posse (ICP), filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of Juggalos, or fans of ICP, claiming that their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated when the U.S. government wrongly and arbitrarily classified the entire fan base as a “hybrid” criminal gang.”

If “God Bless America” wasn’t playing in your head while you read that, enjoy your borscht-centric lunch, comrade. As discussed at length in the Talmud, ICP was formed in late ’80’s Detroit by Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joseph “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler. They subsequently recorded albums, gained a devoted following that shares the band’s enthusiasm for clown makeup, held their dicks, talked shit, etc. In 2011, the DOJ listed Juggalos as a “non-traditional” and “loosely-organized hybrid gang” in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment (page 22).

This may seem ridiculous and, legally speaking, f*ckheaded, mostly because it is. The rationale for describing the Juggalos as a “non-traditional gang” is that some people charged with crimes had been identified as “Juggalo members” or “suspected Juggalo associates” (term, I guess, of art). Swell, but by that logic, you could extrapolate that if several people bearing the symbols of any particular group are arrested, it make sense to assume that the entire organization is a criminal conspiracy. So Christians better hope that nobody with a crucifix tattoo or necklace ever gets busted, lest the feds break down the door at Timmy’s first communion. And the NRA should thank its lucky stars that none of its members have ever run afoul of the law.

It all seemed like fun and games in 2011, and most of us were free to sit on the sidelines and speculate as to whether the DOJ had also classified the KISS Army as a paramilitary force, the Soul Patrol as a law enforcement organization and Beliebers as a religion. Plus, we could legitimately hope for armed intervention into Red Sox Nation. And the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents explaining why the fans of a rap group–albeit a white one–should be classified as a gang. Important, but not earth-shattering.

But as of the filing of this lawsuit on January 8, the ACLU, ICP, and its fans went from f*cking around to not. As we have seen, some complaints read as if they were written by Faulknerian idiot man-children. But this ain’t that. Whichever of the four listed attorneys drafted this document came incredibly correct. I can’t recommend that you read it, exactly, insofar as it’s a federal court filing, but if you were ever inclined to peruse one you could do a lot worse. Regardless, I can give you a representative taste.

There are six plaintiffs–four fans of ICP and our protagonists themselves, Mr. J and Mr. Dope. Interestingly, all six are referred to as “Juggalos.” Can the members of ICP also be considered fans of ICP? A question that has long perplexed mankind. Each plaintiff claims to have been damaged by the DOJ’s criminal designation of Juggalos.

Turns out, there are actual ramifications to being considered a gang member. The four fans variously report: having been pulled over and questioned by police solely based on the ICP “hatchetman” logo on his truck; being told by a recruiter that he could not enlist in the Army unless he removed or covered his ICP tattoos; and being told that he could be kicked out of the military due to his tattoos. The band itself alleges that they had their annual “Hallowicked” show on October 31, 2012 cancelled because local authorities considered them a gang.

2. Let’s Unpack This. lot to process here.

a. “Hallowicked” sounds way more fun than The Gathering of the Juggalos. One night, indoors? Preferable to some multi-day outdoor hootenanny. Plus, makes it pretty easy to pick your Halloween costume.

b. Nobody knows what gang means. “Gang” turns out to be one of those words that, everybody thinks they know what it means but, from a legislative perspective, nobody does.

Since we all know you want 43 pages of various federal and state definitions, boom. A lot to work with. My favorite explanation is on page 2, where the FBI defines a gang as:

“• a group of three or more persons
• With a common interest, bond, or activity
• Characterized by criminal or delinquent conduct.”

Whatever else may be said about the effectiveness of this definition vis a vis crime reduction, “three or more persons”? THREE? So, Simon & Garfunkel don’t qualify as a gang, but the Jonas Brothers do. Daft Punk, no; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, yes. The current touring lineup of Kool and the Gang is more than three gangs. And the Frotcast crew definitely counts.

I’m not saying I know what the minimum number should be, but three seems a little low to qualify. Meanwhile, if anybody wants to know how much a gang of sex costs, I’ve got receipts.

c. Million Hatchetman March.
According to paragraph 5 of the complaint, the FBI and the DOJ estimate that there are over one million Juggalos in the U.S. I don’t have the slightest idea where that number comes from, but that’s either awesome or frightening, depending on how you swing. Regardless, I need to know a little more about that census process.

d. A Pause For the Cause of Action.
The ACLU says in paragraph 7 that the DOJ and FBI have violated federal law in labeling the Juggalos a “gang” because 1) this designation violates their First (freedom of assembly) and Fifth (due process) Amendment rights; 2) it’s “arbitrary and capricious” to consider over a million people criminals just because a few of those people break the law; and 3) information has been gathered on the group and its fans absent reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. That last one resonates with the general populace a lot more now than it would have in 2011. First they came for the Juggalos, and I said nothing, for I am not part of the fam-uh-lee.

e. Cogito ergo whoop.
The complaint explains, in paragraph 28, that “[m]any Juggalos embrace ‘Juggaloism’ as a philosophy, an identity, and a way of life.” All true, even inspiring, but what the f*ck with that Oxford comma? [Vince’s note: In editing this, I noticed that Buttockus was some kind of anti-Oxford comma terrorist. Thus, the one higher up on the page was my insertion.]

f. A life summarized.
One of the plaintiffs is a trucker named Mark Parsons. Paragraph 29 of the complaint, in its entirety: “At all relevant times, Parsons was a Juggalo.” Technically too short to be a haiku, that is still one deep-ass koan and, someday, it will be a spectacular epitaph.

g. DWI. CP.
Parsons drives a truck for the Utah-based business he owns, Juggalo Express LLC. So it’s pretty clear who you need to contact for all your transportation needs, unless you don’t believe in freedom. Anyway, he was pulled over in Tennessee by a state trooper who said that the ICP logo on the side of the truck was, essentially, probable cause. Paragraph 40 is my next tattoo:

“The State Trooper asked Parsons if he had any axes, hatchets, or other similar chopping instruments in the truck. Parsons truthfully answered that he did not.” [emphasis mine]

Sooooo close. The correct answer is, “just the seven halberds in my glove compartment, officer.”

A search of the vehicle yielded no chopping instruments.

h. What they want.
The end is where you put the “Prayer for Relief”–that is, what you want the court to do. The ACLU asks for four things: 1) delete all government references designating the Juggalos as a gang, and all information gathered as a result; 2) declare that such designation was unconstitutional; 3) award court costs and attorneys’ fees; and 4) “Grant such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper” [read: money. In court, that’s how you spell “relief”].

i. My phone works, guys.
ICP apparently has no legal counsel in California. J! Shaggy! Let’s make this happen.

3. Verdict.
Obviously, I would be fascinated with and sympathetic to this cause even if the complaint had been drafted in Sharpie on Violent J’s FUPA. It is, however, a poetically-written thing of beauty. I mean:

“ICP’s lyrics, through their description of a ‘Dark Carnival,’ address themes of good and evil, heaven and hell, and acceptance and tolerance of others. Juggalos follow these ethics and try to live by the moral code of the ‘Carnival.’” (paragraph 28)

When I create my nation, that’s going to be the pledge of allegiance. But this case is more than just fancy words and angry clowns. The ACLU, silly hippies though they may be, have identified an actual injustice–no, really–and if these allegations are true, a lot of people are experiencing genuine discrimination based on hysterical ignorance and bureaucratic asshatitude.

What I’m saying is, it’s not impossible for this to wind up in front of the Supreme Court, and if it takes a pope getting halberded to make that even remotely more likely, book me a flight to Rome.

4. L’Affaire L’eBeouf.
The Shia chronicles finally qualify, for me, as fun, now that lawyers have gotten involved. I’ll probably deal with him next week.

Miracles, y’all.

Follow me on Twitter: @buttockus