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Is This the Best Legal Response Letter Ever?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Last week, we wrote about a fight between Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz, co-author to "The Art of the Deal," Trump's famous biography. Here's the story in a nutshell: Schwartz speaks out against Trump, calling him "impulsive and self-centered." Sparks and legal demand letters fly, leading to a pretty entertaining exchange between Trump and Schwartz's lawyers.

Inspired, a reader wrote in to remind us of what could be the best legal response letter ever, the 1974 exchange between a lawyer for the Cleveland Browns and a season-ticket holding attorney who disliked paper airplanes. If you haven't seen this before, you're in for a treat.

Terror in the Sky

The best legal response letter ever (maybe) was occasioned by one attorney's fear for his eyes. In 1974, Dale O. Cox worked for Roetzel and Andress, a law firm in Akron, Ohio. He was also a dedicated Browns fan, "who attends or tries to attend every game." But one thing kept him from fully enjoying himself at those game: paper airplanes.

Browns fans, but not Cox, had taken to sending paper airplanes gliding throughout the stadium during games. That, Cox feared, was a major safety hazard. He wrote to the Browns to point out "the risk of serious eye injury and perhaps an ear injury as a result of such airplanes," and to put them on notice that he would hold them responsible for any paper airplane-related damage to his eyes and perhaps ears:

Please be advised that since you are in a position to control or terminate such action on the part of fans, I will hold you responsible for any injury sustained by any person in my party attending one of your sporting events. It is hoped that his disrespectful and possibly dangerous activity will be terminated.

And in response came one of the best attorney letters we've seen, penned by James N. Bailey, then-general counsel for the Browns:

Dear Mr. Cox:

Attached is a letter that we received on November 19, 1974. I feel that you should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters.

Where Are They Now?

So, what ever happened to these heroes of the Nixon-era Ohio legal scene? Sadly, Cox did end up losing an eye, leading to a successful lawsuit against the Browns and the dismissal of Bailey.

No, we kid. The Cleveland Plain Dealer managed to track both attorneys down in 2010, to confirm the exchange's veracity. Bailey was living in San Diego at the time and somewhat regretted the letter. "I was all of 28 years when I wrote that letter," he said. "I should have been more cautious." The letter even got back to Browns owner Art Modell, who gave Bailey a slight scolding.

However, Cox, who was still working at the age of 72 when contacted by the Plain Dealer, was not offended. "I thought it was pretty cool," he said. "I've used that letter a couple of times myself." As of 2010, Cox was still a Browns season ticket holder.

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