Law Professor John Banzhaf's "SUE THE BASTARDS" License Plates

     Among the best known attorney license plates are those which belong to public interest law professor John Banzhaf. 
     They have gone through several different iterations  - e.g., "Sue Bast," "Su Bastrds," etc. - which all stand for “Sue the Bastards.”
     Not only have they appeared in many media reports, but they were brought up on CNN, in a Congressional Hearing, and in the official Committee Rport, all in an effort to embarrass him.  P.S.: it didn’t work, and the “cheeseburger bill” against which he testified never passed.

Legal Threat Bubbling Beneath School Soda Contract, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER [7/17/03]: The man who brought the threat of an anti-obesity lawsuit to the Seattle School Board works in a university office about 3,000 miles away, with a sign hanging outside the door that reads "Torts R Us." 

His 1989 white Ford van, once used to taxi his now-grown son around, has a vanity license plate reading "SUEBAST" -- short for "Sue the Bastards," a favorite credo.

John Banzhaf III, a public-interest lawyer and law professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., has a sense of humor his targets may not find amusing at all.

The 63-year-old legal maverick who successfully took on the tobacco industry has turned his attention to the nation's obesity epidemic, and school districts that have exclusive contracts with soft-drink manufacturers are squarely in his crosshairs. Link


Future Lawyers of America, FACEBOOK: Rebel With Many Causes: The George Washington University Law School catalog lists John F. Banzhaf III’s most celebrated and notorious course as Legal Activism.

The professor refers to this central part of his syllabus by a less scholarly title: Sue the Bastards.

His license plate once rendered the same sentiment semaphorically as SUE BAS.

Class Action;  Law Professor John Banzhaf III Has a Talent for Stirring up Trouble, AMERICAN LAWYER MAGAZINE, [07/05]: John Banzhaf III may rank as legal academia's instigator in chief. From behind his large desk, littered with stacks of paper and empty Diet Coke cans, the professor at George Washington University Law School in D.C. files (or threatens) suits about as often as most people change clothes.
In his time at GW, Banzhaf and his students from his legal advocacy class (known as Banzhaf's Bandits) have sued the tobacco industry for product liability, won many sex discrimination claims, and successfully defended free speech. Their antismoking work prompted a ban on Joe Camel. In May their push for "potty parity" resulted in New York City's Women's Restroom Equity bill, requiring public venues to provide roughly two women's bathroom stalls for every men's stall or urinal. And another crusade prevented campus groups from restricting X-rated films on the GW campus.
A few years ago, shortly after Banzhaf brought the McDonald's action, Frontiers of Freedom launched, a Web site monitoring Banzhaf's every legal move, down to the words on an old license plate, "SUE BAS," which stood for the nickname of his GW advocacy class, "Sue the Bastards."  Link

[Robert] NOVAK: Professor Banzhaf, I would like to put something up on the screen.
NOVAK: It's a license plate. Can we put it up there? There it is. that's your license plate. And it says SUE BAS. Is that your wife's name, Sue Bas?
BANZHAF: No, it's actually B-A-S-T, and stands for Sue the Bastards, and if Virginia ever finds out what it stands for, they'll probably take it away from me.
[Paul] BEGALA: Oh, my goodness.
NOVAK: Isn't this a case of you are just one of the most litigious men in America. You will sue anybody at the drop of the hat.
BANZHAF: Anytime I see wrongdoing, I will sue. I'm an equal opportunity litigator. As you know, I'm one of the few people, who when you had the CROSSFIRE, and you had the liberal and conservative, I got fired at by the conservative, and I got fired at by the liberal. I go after anybody. Link

■  Hearings, Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act [“Cheeseburger Bil,” HR 339l],
Mr. FEENEY.: So, Mr. Banzhaf, The Washington Post . . . suggest[s] that you have or have had a license plate that says, ''Sue the bast---s''—and it isn't completed. Who are the ''bast---s'' that we are referring to in the license plate, just out of interest?
Mr. BANZHAF. ''Sue the bastards'' is a phrase which is used by many people. I use it two ways.
FIRST of all, if you put the emphasis on the first part,"SUE the bastards," it suggests that if you are going to go after the bad guys; often suing them is a more effective way, for example, than coming before Congress, at least for the little guy. That is what I am finding here this morning.
SECONDLY, we can put the emphasis on "sue the BASTARDS," which means that if I am going to - as I do - spend my life suing people, I would rather sue people whom I think ought to be sued rather than simply sue people because somebody walks in my office with a check. Link

Committee Reports [On the “Cheeseburger Bill”], 109th Congress (2005-2006), HOUSE REPORT 109-130: According to The Washington Post, Mr. Banzhaf `has sued Hertz, Spiro Agnew and the Interstate Commerce Commission, filed legal complaints against dry cleaners, male-only clubs, the National Park Service, Rep. Barney Frank and Mrs. Simpson's Dance Classes, threatened Dulles Airport, and delivered a Freedom of Information Act [request] to the Office of the President . . .  His favorite saying--`Sue the bastards'--has been linked to him so many times, it's downright trite to bring it up. The saying is on his office wall, and also on his office wall in Latin. His license plate says SUE BAST . . . Link

JUNK DEAL, Their Products Cause Heart Disease, Strokes, and Diabetes-- Adding Billions to Our Health-Care Bill. The Tobacco Industry? Nope, America's Junk-food Manufacturers. And Some People Think It's Time for Them to Pay, MEN’S HEALTH: The 61-year-old Banzhaf, a stout, broad-faced man whose license plate reads "SUE BAST" (short for "sue the bastards"), became interested in food last year, when a vegan student in his class was horrified to discover something about McDonald's french fries: Although the company had advertised its fries as cooked in "100 percent vegetable oil," they actually contained a small amount of beef extract--described in the company's nutrition information only as a "natural flavor." Banzhaf saw a possible false-advertising lawsuit and put his students to work detailing it. A Hindu lawyer in Seattle took the case. Initially, Banzhaf says, people laughed when he described the suit. But in March word leaked that McDonald's intended to settle the class-action lawsuit for $12.4 million. Link

Snack attack - Suing Burger Giants for Obesity, FOODMARKETEXCHANGE.COM:  US (November 5, 2002) - Oh, it's important to be on the right side and all, but what really gets John Banzhaf going is being on the short side of a long-odds fight. He likes to position himself as a little fellow with a pickax, digging away at social ills and wrongheaded industries. He did it with tobacco for 35 years, arguing for nonsmoker's rights, helping eliminate cigarette advertising on television, helping establish nonsmoking sections in public places and smoking bans on planes, trains and buses.
He has built a public persona on this principle, for decades teaching a legal activism course that encourages law students to bring to court social reform lawsuits. His favorite saying -- "Sue the Bastards" -- has been linked to him so many times, it's downright trite to bring it up. The saying is on his office wall, and also on his office wall in Latin. His license plate says SUE BAST. Link