There’s a socially cultivated sense of importance about our judicial system. There’s even an aura among some lawyers of reverence, if not sycophancy, toward appellate judges as though the work of appellate court judges is serious and intellectually demanding so that only the brightest minds can do the job.
It’s refreshing then to see an appellate court struggling with a question of great jurisprudential and social import: Whether a self-propelled lawn mower is a “motor vehicle”? That’s exactly the question the Washington Supreme Court resolved by a vote of 6 to 3 with a separate concurring and dissenting opinion totaling 23 pages of reasoning in State v. Barnes, 189 Wn. 2d 492 (2017).
The question was probably not that difficult since the statute the Court was interpreting explicitly excluded golf carts from the definition of “motor vehicles”. Then too, the Court of Appeals had already decided the case correctly as the Supreme Court’s majority decision affirmed. So, it’s impossible not to wonder, if it takes this much judicial effort to decide if a lawn mower is a car, how much confidence should we place in any court’s ability to reach a sensible decision?