Law and autocorrect

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


From Mc Naughtiness McNaughton v. de Blasio (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2015):

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Neil McNaughton presents a riveting tale of intra-family machinations, egregious sexual misconduct (actual or alleged), coopting of two different law enforcement bodies, near-daily attempts at entrapment, and countless invasions of Plaintiff's home and computer….

According to Plaintiff, the problems culminating in the instant litigation began at least as early as the spring of 2007, when Plaintiff learned that his sister Laura was accusing him—falsely, he claims—of being a pedophile. Plaintiff avers that these statements adversely affected his relationships with members of his family; in his opposition papers, for example, he suggests that the statements caused a female cousin to prohibit Plaintiff from spending time with her young children.

Were that the totality of Plaintiff's claims, the plausibility inquiry that inheres in Rule 12(b)(6) would not be implicated. In the remainder of the Amended Complaint, however, Plaintiff attempts to posit a Grand Unified Theory—involving his sister and two wholly unrelated police departments—to link together a multitude of seemingly unrelated "anomalous occurrences." (Am. Compl. ¶ 35). It is here that Plaintiff's allegations lose their tethers to logic and common sense….

[I omit most of the elaborate details, but you can find them in the opinion.—EV] According to Plaintiff, the NYPD has spread the defamatory statements to others, which has had the effect (if not the design) of complicating Plaintiff's ability to bring the instant case. For example, Plaintiff notes that a communication from the process server he used in this case referred to him as "Mr. Naughtiness"; that error, along with certain missteps in the service process, are alleged by Plaintiff to have been "caused by the republication of the slander that plaintiff was a pedophile by the NYPD to [the process server] and were done in concert with the NYPD." Plaintiff similarly cites improper interference by the NYPD to explain why Plaintiff had difficulties retaining a forensic expert to analyze fingerprints from his apartment….

[Footnote: Plaintiff's allegations concerning his process server are particularly chimerical. Plaintiff reasons that certain problems with effecting and documenting service, "upon information and belief[,] were caused by the republication of the slander that plaintiff was a pedophile by the NYPD to [the process server] and were done in concert with the NYPD." However, his factual support for this allegation is his receipt of an email from the process server addressed to "Mr. Naughtiness." This salutation is plainly insufficient to constitute evidence of a constitutional violation or a conspiracy with the NYPD. The Court notes, as a point of information only, that when it typed Plaintiff's surname into its smartphone, the phone's autocorrect feature replaced "Naughton" with "Naughtiness."]

For more on this sort of "Cupertino effect," see this Language Log post.