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Judicial menagerie

Animal imagery finds its way into some ERISA case rulings

What is it about ERISA litigation that prompts judges to use animal imagery in writing their opinions?

In the June 2014 landmark Supreme Court Dudenhoeffer decision overturning a legal principle governing stock-drop cases, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: "Such a rule does not readily divide the plausible sheep from the meritless goats."

And in January, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer chimed in with an opinion dismissing participants' ERISA complaints against two 403(b) plans run by Georgetown University.

"If a cat were a dog, it could bark," she wrote in the opening paragraph of her opinion.

"If a retirement plan were not based on long-term investments in annuities, its assets would be more immediately accessed by plan participants," she added.

"These two truisms can be summarized: Cats don't bark and annuities don't pay out immediately."