You may have seen a short blurb from the Associated Press or UPI about Ronald Borga’s attempt to use a check “neatly written on three squares of floral print, two-ply toilet paper” to pay his disputed water bill (see, e.g., Newsday, Forbes). You can read a full account about it from the city where it happened in “City man uses toilet-paper check to try to settle water-bill dispute” (Press & Sun-Bulletin,
GreaterBinghamton, NY, by John Hill, March 27, 2008). That’s Borga in the photo from the Binghamton newspaper (taken by Joseph Geronimo), along with Robert Behnke, the Broome County attorney, who refused to take the check.
Many non-lawyer weblogs pointed to the story yesterday (March 28, 2008), including Republican Storm and Free Money. But, as of 9 AM EDT this morning, you won’t find it yet in the blawgisphere – the thousands of weblogs written, edited or hosted by lawyers, law professors, and law students. I just tried searching for /”toilet paper” check/ at Google’s Blog Search, and not one of the listings was from a blawg. So, I checked Justia’s Blawg Search; then went to Legal Blog Watch; (the newly snazzy-looking) Overlawyered.com, and even Anne Reed’s Deliberations. Not a word on a blawg about this fun, intriguing story — one that could use a lawyer’s perspective to help educate the public.
Heck, I’m retired and never liked or practiced Commercial law, so don’t look to the f/k/a Gang for an instant expert advice explanation of what constitutes a legitimate bill of exchange, negotiable instrument, or “bank draft,” that can be used as a check, or for advice on when a government entity can refuse a home-made check (or the “$2,000 in nickels and dimes” Borgna may be trying to scrounge up). But, maybe the WSJ law blog, or business law professor Stephen Bainbridge could tell us. Or, perhaps one of those smart guys at Prawfsblawg, or the Business Law Prof Blog. I’d settle for a law student who’s recently taken a course on the Uniform Commercial Code [UCC].
Until the experts weigh in, check out this discussion and definition of “check” from the ‘Lectric Law Library Lexicon.
update (11 AM): I’m interrupting a perfectly good Saturday shower to note my vague recollection that Vern Countryman told our class in Commercial Transactions 101, back in the mid-70s, something like: “you can write a check on anything — even toilet paper.” But, don’t quote Vern nor me on that, please. The real question here, of course, is whether a payee has to accept the check when it is proffered (especially when it customarily does accept personal checks, and as here is a government entity), not whether the bank has to honor it.
Meanwhile, you should know, as reported by the Press & Sun-Bulletin that:
An argument that ensued in the sixth-floor county law office grew testy but involved no physical confrontation. It ended with Borgna being peacefully escorted out of the building by a Broome Security officer.
Bill Ullmann, an attorney with the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, said the IRS has in the past accepted a check written on a T-shirt as payment for a tax bill. But, because toilet paper is easily destroyed, it may have been difficult to clear the check.
“I can understand why someone would be hesitant to accept a check written on toilet paper,” Ullmann said.
I’ve often heard what a great resource lawyer weblogs are for the public. But, I’m not a believer in that propaganda. Here’s a tale that needs a little legal expertise. Seems to me it’s a perfect time for the profession to show it has a sense of humor and a timely interest in educating the public on topics of interest to the average bloke — and even to cranky ex-lawyers like myself, who can’t quite recall his bar exam prep from three decades ago, and has not kept up on the law of commercial paper. I sure hope someone has written on this in time for George Wallace’s upcoming edition of Blawg Review — # 153 — on Monday [update: which George has --arrggh!-- dubbed Blarrgh Review! and imbued with a piratical theme].
the uneven edge
of a quahog shell
a spring wind
coins in the cup
of a sleeping beggar
my New Year’s resolution
borrowed mystery –
…. by dagosan
spring equinox –
the toilet paper roll
the wind tugs at