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‘Annotated Harrell’ year-end wrap-up

Has it really been more than seven months since I’ve noted the annotations in the opinions of Court of Appeals Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr.?

Sadly, it has.

I’ve been checking periodically since May, of course, but honestly I haven’t been as diligent as I should have been. (Anyone else smell a New Year’s resolution here?) So I did a quick review of the judge’s opinions since I last wrote about them. And while I didn’t see too many Harry Potter references, two opinions stood out.

Harrell referred to a zoning dispute between Baltimore City residents and a neighboring apartment complex as “the city’s version of the Hundred Years’ War” in a July opinion. Not only does Harrell give a brief description of the Hundred Years’ War in a footnote, he includes this gem:

The Hundred Years’ War gave history Joan of Arc. The instant case also has a central figure named Joan (one of the Petitioners), who, like her saintly antecedent, faithfully presses her cause, having battled the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore numerous times. Although Joan of Arc suffered an unfortunate fate, her principals… ultimately succeeded.

One month later, Harrell went from the historical to the philosophical. He began a majority opinion holding the state can regulate noise from a shooting club in Allegany County with a question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Harrell notes many attribute the question to 18th century Irish philosopher George Berkeley.

The judge then partially answers the question. “An existentialist likely would decline to confront the riddle because human impact expressly is excluded by the query,” he writes. His footnote offers a crash course in existentialism:

Most existentialists treat the human subject as the starting point for philosophical thought. Thus, this riddle likely would be deemed by them to be too abstract and remote from the concrete human experience to be worthy of serious contemplation.

In other words, the opposite of Harrell’s opinions.