I just received another photo for submission in the ugly federal judicial truck contest. It comes from a clerk to a federal appellate judge. But, there is a huge problem. The nomination first presents several convincing reasons why the truck should win, but then it drops a bombshell:
My truck is a gray 1996 Toyota Tacoma 4×2. My brother and I purchased the truck on the used market in 1998, when we were juniors in high school. At that time, we did not notice that the truck’s title had a “Salvaged” notation on it (we later learned that in California, “Salvaged” means the vehicle was fixed after sustaining structural damage).
The truck made numerous trips in California, while I finished college in Southern California and visited my family in the San Francisco area. As the miles piled up, so did the wear and tear. And I was a poor college kid, then a recent graduate, and then a law school student — I wanted to spend as little as possible on maintenance.
The truck’s passenger side panel was badly warped out of shape when I passed a bit too close to a parked bicycle’s handlebars. Never fixed.
The rear bumper accidentally crashed into a high curbing and was permanently bent downwards (see attached photo). Never fixed.
The cloth upholstery in the bench seat ripped, exposing seat foam. Never fixed.
The exterior locking mechanism in the driver’s door broke, preventing the door from being locked or unlocked from the outside. Never fixed. Instead, I made do by unlocking the passenger door, reaching across the bench seat to unlock the driver’s door from the inside, and then walking back around to the driver’s side. On occasion, my long-suffering girlfriend would reach across and unlock the driver’s door for me.
The headlights burnt out. Those were fixed — but replacing the headlights in a 1996 Tacoma requires removing the front grille. I removed the grille but never got around to replacing it (absence of grille visible in photo).
All that being said, this truck assisted with more than 15 apartment moves (for myself and friends) as well as numerous furniture pickups, Ikea runs, and other tasks. It safely transported me to high school, college, post-college jobs, law school, my first clerkship, and my first “real” lawyer job. It was still running approximately 180,000 miles later (the odometer broke somewhere around 150,000).
Sadly, I no longer own the truck — I sold it in April 2012 because the insurance was just too costly in light of its value. I fear that the sale may disqualify it from consideration for the contest, but I wonder if there may be some form of equitable tolling available?
I have given this problem sober consideration. In light of the Supreme Court’s decision this week in McQuiggin v. Perkins, I will liberally construe the submission as a claim of “actual innocence.” Therefore, I will look to the merits of the claim. Finding the claim sufficient at this stage of initial review, and believing that fair is fair, I now post the photo of this exquisitely nasty truck. Again, I make no determination, yet, as to the ultimate winner (of something that is fast beginning to look like a red-neck version of Hunger Games).