Miranda Pennoyer on Miranda

It’s time once again for “Ask Miranda Pennoyer,” the column so prestigious that it once taught Francis Bacon that “knowledge is power.”  This column is so powerful, it not only protects your rights—it creates new ones.       

Today, we touch an issue that is very close to Miranda Pennoyer: the Miranda rule itself.  How will we address it?  Through loyal readers, who have the right to ask questions.  Any question can and will be mocked in a humor column of law.  They have the right to an editor.  If they cannot afford an editor, spell check will be appointed to them. 

Q.  So what can we do to protect ourselves from your razor-sharp wit?

A.  Ha-ha!  You already submitted to questioning!  You’re MINE! 

Q.  But I didn’t accept the terms!

A.  You asked a question, didn’t you?  In full knowledge of your Miranda Pennoyer rights? 

Q.  Yes, but—

A.  So clearly, you’ve chosen not to remain silent.  Therefore, you have accepted and waived that right. 


A.  Well, since you’re here, don’t you want to hear about how Miranda Pennoyer feels about Berghuis v. Thompkins, the latest case to address Miranda v. Arizona 


A.  Well?  Don’t you want to hear what’s got our legal briefs in a bunch? 

Q.  —nods—

A.  This opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, scales back our namesake, Miranda v. Arizona.  According to the opinion, a person wishing to invoke the Miranda right to remain silent must state so affirmatively.   


A.  In other words, Berghuis means that from now on, you must speak up to remain silent.  So what you’re doing, reader, does not count. 

Q.  What?  But I didn’t say anything!

A.  Exactly. 

Q.  So even if I’ve been silent for a lot of this column, the things I say now can be used against me?  That doesn’t seem entirely fair.

A.  Why not?  You had the chance to invoke your right to remain silent. 

Q.  I remained silent!  How was I supposed to know that wasn’t enough?

A.  Now you know.  The important thing to take away from this case is that no longer can you protect yourself from self-incrimination by acting like a sullen teenager.  No, you must inform the police of your decision to remain silent. 

Q.  What would you do in this situation?

A.  How dare you suggest that we would ever be in such a compromising position! 

Q.  I’m sorry.  Now what would you do?

A.  I would help the police out.  Before they even had the chance to read me my Miranda rights, I would recite my own Miranda Pennoyer right: “I have the right to remain silent.  Anything I try to say can and will be useless to me in a court of law.  I have the right to an attorney.  Even without a lawyer, I know better than to open my big mouth.  So this is the last thing I’m saying.” 

Q.  Will that work? 

A.  Probably.  However, there’s still one trick to employ. 

Q.  What’s that?

A.  Not saying anything!  The law can only do so much to save you from yourself.   

Q.  Did you know that the letters in “right to remain silent” can be rearranged to say “Interrogate Smith? …Nil.”

A.  Also, “Get him, intolerant sir!” 


Write your question in the “memo” section of a blank check.  After all, knowledge is priceless.



Ha.  This is pretty funny.  Is “Pennoyer” from Pennoyer v. Neff?  I just got that.  Am I an idiot when it comes to case law humor or what?


Thank you!
And yes, “Pennoyer” is from Pennoyer v. Neff.  I always thought of it as one of those cases that will forever cause law-mares.
And no reason to get Mad (ison) about missing caselaw humor—it’s often quite corny!

Ruth Carter

That’s brilliant!  It’s pretty crazy that we have to speak when we use our right to stay silent.
You should join me in my quest to be the lawyer to the pranksters of the world.  We had to speak to talk our way out of tickets a few months ago, but we opted to keep our mouths mostly shut when dealing with non-law officials: http://bit.ly/a7WHhp. 


Excellent synopsis of the recent decision.  Reality can be more humorous than fiction. 

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Become a Member

FREE online community for women in the legal profession.



Subscribe to receive regular updates, news, and events from Ms. JD.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe