Many Questions – Todd Graves’ Pro Hac Vice Motion for the Rigsby Sister’s Qui Tam

Before I had time to write the post to follow-up the Heads Up I posted last Thursday, the was already a presumption about the content in a related post elsewhere.

As David Rossmiller and the folks at Slabbed have noted (with presumably very different reactions), State Farm responded by opposing the motion. The very brief response says “For the reasons set forth in its April 8, 2008 ‘Motion to Disqualify Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorney, PC and Graves Bartle & Marcus, LLC,’ (’Disqualification Motion’) ([103]) and the accompanying memorandum ([104]), State Farm opposes the Graves PHV Motion.”

State Farm’s response wasn’t exactly that brief. It has a little punch line at the end.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, State Farm prays that its Disqualification Motion will be granted and the Graves PHV Motion denied.

It’s a little late for prayer, folks, regardless of what Judge Senter decides. You just can’t ask many questions of the Rigsby sisters and expect the rest of us to read the answers your way.

Many questions, also known as complex question, presupposition, loaded question, “trick question”, or plurium interrogationum (Latin “of many questions”), is an informal fallacy or logical fallacy. It is committed when someone asks a question that presupposes something that has not been proven or accepted by all the people involved. This fallacy is often used rhetorically, so that the question limits direct replies to those that serve the questioner’s agenda an example of this is the question “Are you still beating your wife”

Whether the respondent answers yes or no, he will admit to having a wife, and having beaten her at some time in the past. Thus, these facts are presupposed by the question, and in this case an entrapment, because it narrows the respondent to a single answer, and the fallacy of many questions has been committed.

The fallacy relies upon context for its effect: the fact that a question presupposes something does not in itself make the question fallacious. Only when some of these presuppositions are not necessarily agreed to by the person who is asked the question does the argument containing them become fallacious.

Of course, I know the meaning of the word pray in the context of State Farm’s reply; but, that’s not all I know.

I also know correlation does not imply causation – and, that like many questions, the suggestion it does is a logical fallacy.

Beginning with Aristotle, informal fallacies have generally been placed in one of several categories, depending on the source of the fallacy. There are fallacies of relevance, fallacies involving causal reasoning, and fallacies resulting from ambiguities

  • Fallacy of Accident (also called destroying the exception or a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid)–makes a generalization that disregards exceptions (e.g., Cutting people is a crime. Surgeons cut people. Therefore, surgeons are criminals.)
  • Converse Fallacy of Accident (also called reverse accident, destroying the exception, or a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter)–argues from a special case to a general rule (e.g., If we allow people with glaucoma to use medicinal marijuana then everyone should be allowed to use marijuana.)
  • Irrelevant Conclusion (also called Ignoratio Elenchi)–diverts attention away from a fact in dispute rather than address it directly. This is sometimes referred to as a “red herring”.
  • Fallacy of the Consequent draws a conclusion from premises that do not support that conclusion (e.g., If I have the flu, then I have a sore throat. I have a sore throat. Therefore, I have the flu. Other illnesses may cause sore throat.)
  • Begging the question (also called Petitio Principii, Circulus in Probando–arguing in a circle, or assuming the answer)–demonstrates a conclusion by means of premises that assume that conclusion (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. This statement assumes the violent crime rate will fall when the death penalty is imposed.
  • Fallacy of False Cause or Non Sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”)–incorrectly assumes one thing is the cause of another (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great.)

It doesn’t take an Aristotle to spot the logical fallacies surrounding the Rigsby sister’s Qui Tam claim – or the creative mind of a Dickens once you get away from trailer-lawyer-thinking. Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny sounds more like the firm that runs the Qui Tam Legal Center of Missouri than Dickens to me anyway.

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