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When John Oliver Speaks, the Ninth Circuit Listens

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

John Oliver's ability to bring a lighter touch to serious topics has made his take-downs must see TV. The Last Week Tonight host can provide both laughter and awareness on important social and political issues.

And apparently he can also provide the basis for legal judgments, after the Ninth Circuit cited a recent rant in a class action lawsuit. So is the weekly show host on his way to becoming Judge John Oliver?

Territorial Pissings

Regular Oliver viewers will remember his lengthy dissertation on the strange position U.S. territories occupy vis-a-vis their citizens and their citizens' representative rights:

For many, the segment shone a light on a strange and shady legal system. As it turns out, the light Oliver shone on the issue caught the eye of at least one federal judge who happened to have a lawsuit against the government of Guam in her court.

She's Giving Me Ex-Citations

The case involved a group of residents suing the government of Guam over a tax refund program, claiming that the program violated their equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When discussing how and whether the amendment applied to residents of Guam, Judge Marsha S. Berzon dropped this little footnote:

We do note, however, that the so-called "Insular Cases," which established a less-than-complete application of the Constitution in some U.S. territories, has been the subject of extensive judicial, academic, and popular criticism. See, e.g., Juan Torruella, The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid, 77 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1 (2008); Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories, Youtube (Mar. 8, 2015),

The idea of courts using Oliver's tirades as support for legal rulings is happy news for us. We eager await more judges and justices heeding Oliver's advice on the inequities of the bail system, patent law reform, and paid family leave.

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