The Camel Cigarette Ad Case

Creative writing is a confection – a treat to read and a treat to experience. Two judges got creative in their opinions in the Camel cartoon case. In 1998, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company entered into a multi-billion dollar settlement with several states and as part of the settlement agreed not to use characters like its icon Joe Camel in its advertizing campaigns. When Rolling Stone ran the ad pictured here, Washington state’s Attorney General sued seeking sanctions and to stop the ad campaign.
At the trial court level, King County Superior Court Judge Bill Downing displayed his renowned creative writing skills and crafted a delectable comparison when he rejected the state’s arguments. He wrote in his opinion that the ad was:
“. . . (a) thought-provoking metaphor regarding the growth and nurturance of artistic creativity. . . They are as different from the sunglass-wearing, saxophone-playing, comically hip Joe Camel as [surrealist painter] Renee Magritte is from Walt Disney.”
In overturning the trial court’s ruling on in mid-July, Appellate Court Judge and former King County Judge and colleague of Judge Downing also resorted to literary flourishes in her opinion which describes the same ad this way:
“Under a blue sky in a pastoral Eden, roosters hitch rides on floating tractors, speakers grow out of the ground and radios fly. This is in a world where the natural laws do not obtain, where cancer and serious health problems can cease to exist. . . . For a product known to cause both, such a world is a potent sales device.”
Legal opinions don’t have to be dry as Stephen Colbert’s wit or as dust or as the desert or as a bone . . .