My office suitemate Simon, a lawyer with another firm, talks about sharks more than the average bear. (Bet you didn’t know bears spoke of sharks. That is today’s lesson for you.)

Simon’s shark talk coincided with my telling him in May that I’d started surfing. Since then, he’s been regularly warning me that sharks prey on seals in distress, and that when I fall off my board in a black wetsuit and flail around to get back on it, I look like lunch.

I’ve shared office space, and therefore documentary recommendations, jokes, and political theories with Simon for just over a year. Every conversation with him heightens my gratitude that I work in an office rather than at home, since I get these organic moments you just can’t replicate on Zoom.

From my chats with Simon, I’ve deduced that he cares about everything, and that when he gets an idea about anything, he is tenacious.

For example, Simon is the only person in the history of the planet whose phone calls the IRS studiously avoids.

No, I did not flip the subject and object of that sentence around: It is the Internal Revenue Service who tired of hearing from Simon when they sought to impose a fine on him. The amount was nominal but the premise wrong.

According to Simon, the IRS in fact owed *him* money—also a nominal amount. On principle alone, Simon harassed the IRS by phone and U.S. Mail for 1.5 years, repeatedly threatening to take them to Small Claims Court, until he and the bureaucrats settled this issue in Simon’s favor.

On the Monday immediately following the Dodd ruling, Simon told me he’d spent the weekend coming up with the perfect plan to address it: Reproductive rights organizations throughout California, and other states that will serve as havens for women who want or need abortions that are now illegal in their states, should organize individual Small Claims lawsuits against the three Supreme Court justices who lied in their confirmation hearings, saying they would uphold Roe v. Wade.

“How do California residents have standing to sue federal Supreme Court justices?” I asked. Simon explained that our taxes will increase to accommodate women from out of state who want or need abortions.

“But don’t Supreme Court justices have immunity?” I asked. Simon does not believe they do in this case because they were all private citizens at the time when they lied about their commitments to upholding Roe.

“But can these Small Claims litigants prove damages?” I asked.

“I thought about that,” Simon answered. “Taxes increase all the time. But the claimants can argue that they would have budgeted for their increased taxes had they known the three justices would go back on their word after they were sworn in.”

“So how much would each claimant request in damages?” I asked. “$9,999.00,” Simon answered. The maximum amount one can claim in Small Claims Court in California is $10,000.00.

“But these justices are rich,” I said. “Why do they care about a $9,999.00 lawsuit?”

“Because if you get even 150 claimants, that adds up to an amount that will hurt them,” Simon answered. “And they’ll also have 150 sheriffs coming to their homes to serve them.”

Since the local sheriffs must serve each lawsuit personally, Simon explained, the justices would receive Sheriff visits to their private homes at all hours of day and night.

“But how do you even find out where the justices live to serve them at home?” I asked.

Simon answered, “I can look up anybody’s home address with my LexisNexis account.” Plus, he added, you could always have the sheriffs serve them at work, since we all know that address.

“But why so many Small Claims actions and not civil litigation in Superior Court, where you can sue for more?” I wondered.

“Because the justices can’t sue you for attorney’s fees in Small Claims Court—no attorneys.” Simon answered.

Simon, born and raised in the UK, concluded, “It always amazes me that Americans have this fantastic tool at their disposal, and they underutilize it.”

“The legal system?” I asked.

“No! Small Claims Court!” he exclaimed.

According to Simon, if Americans in reproductive rights-friendly states harass the three lying justices enough, the justices will begin using their judicial powers to serve us, not the pro-life set they are bowing to now.

I decided Simon’s idea fell under the “it’s so crazy, it just might work” umbrella and stopped asking questions.

A week ago, Simon stopped me in the hallway to tell me about Sharkbanz, a company that makes wristbands that emit a signal sufficiently uncomfortable to sharks that it keeps them from attacking anyone wearing one.

In studies of areas where sharks attacked, Simon explained, researchers found that sharks attacked people not wearing the wristband and refrained from attacking those wearing one.

I’m not so worried about shark “interactions,” as the Sharkbanz literature adorably refers to these encounters, but the price was right and, if these things really work, the purchase and practice of regular wear would be well worth it.

Plus, I don’t want Simon to sue me in Small Claims Court.

So I bought one and emailed Simon to tell him so. I included the Sharkbanz website link in my email.

Simon replied, “Excellent, and thank you for sending the link. I’m going to buy these as Christmas gifts for my whole family.” Fun dad!

So now you know how I came to have yet another protective gadget to wear during my surf sessions. Next purchase: a floatable plastic bubble!

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About the Author: Katie Burke

Katie Burke
Katie Burke is an award-winning author, San Francisco attorney, journalist, and surfer. Her first book, Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco, was critically acclaimed. Her next book, the forthcoming Sea Change: Women and Nonbinary People Reshaping Surfing Wave by Wave, is scheduled for publication in July 2023.

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