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A Reprieve – For Now

By Staff | Apr 2, 2013

For a long, long time, I’ve felt that our society has become litigation-happy. You know, that situation when your coffee at the drive through says “Caution Hot Beverage” and you spill it on yourself and sue the restaurant because it was hot. Or, you have an allergy to peanuts, yet you walk into an ice cream shop and order a banana split with extra nuts on top, and then sue the shot because you have an allergic reaction to the nuts that you ordered.

The latest example of this litigious society of which we live in came a couple of weeks ago. A county attorney in Ohio, who apparently got hit with a snowball or fell on his bottom side on the ice, filed a criminal indictment against one “Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog.”

The charge: Mis-Prognostication to wit: “Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early.”

Or, in normal human speak, that the famous Pennsylvania groundhog inaccurately “predicted” an early spring, as winter has continued to hang on for dear life.

Now, one might think that facing such criminal charges, Phil would be planning a midnight flight to more receptive shores, perhaps a tropical island where winter is just a word, but members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, the group who care for Phil and handle his business affairs, say the groundhog wasn’t worried in the least about the hub-bub, as he was enjoying his three square meals a day and lots of rest after his momentous duties on Feb. 2.

The reason Phil has been living large in his den is simple – he has a perfect defense to the charges – one with some teeth in it (groundhogs do have teeth, you know).

According to published reports, Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Pennsylvania Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, said the furry prognosticator had actually predicted six more weeks of winter back on Feb. 2, but Phil’s human handler that morning mistakenly announced an early spring to the crowd and the world because he had not correctly interpreted Phil’s “groundhog-eese” prognostication.

Nancy Grace would have been beside herself.

Then came the shocker after learning that Phil had an alibi, the Ohio prosecutor decided to drop the indictment this past week, in the interest of justice and only because the human handler messed up.

Oh, how quickly things change.

Once the world was satisfied and happy with good old Phil, Ohio’s own lesser-known groundhog forecaster of winter, Buckeye Chuck, (REALLY?) also drew a get-out-of-jail-free pass, because the truth be known, old Buckeye Chuck tanked on his prediction of an early spring on Ground Hog Day – and no one would take the blame for him.

Hmm, old Buckeye Chuck’s handler must have been an Iowa Hawkeye alumnus and of course, a Buckeye fan would take care of a fellow Buckeye – striped shirts or not.

Whoops – got carried away there for a moment.

But when you consider it, this whole situation brings about the possibility of other seasonal symbols suddenly finding themselves in the crosshairs of litigation. Think about it turkeys could be cited for noise ordinance violations at Thanksgiving as they gobble for their lives, or Santa Claus himself could draw a ticket or two for not scooping up after his reindeerand don’t forget Cupid on Valentines’ Day..shooting people with arrows that’s just asking for a response with force by law enforcement all over the place. Or even worse, the Easter Bunny could draw a little scrutiny if the right candy didn’t show up in Sunday’s Easter baskets.only time will tell.