Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2017

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Judge plays Solomon with Beanie Babies

Divorce is often hardest on the babies.

Divvying them up can be emotional.

This morning, a frustrated Clark County Family Court judge ordered an erstwhile couple to divide up their collection of Beanie Babies one by one under his supervision in the courtroom.

Maple the Bear was the first to go.

"This isn't about toys. It's about control," Family Court Judge Gerald Hardcastle told the couple. "Because you folks can't solve it, it takes the services of a District Court judge, a bailiff and a court reporter."

There was snickering among the five or six people in the gallery.

"I don't agree with the judge's decision to do this. It's ridiculous and embarrassing," said Frances Mountain, moments before squatting on the courtroom floor alongside her ex-husband to choose first from a pile of dozens of stuffed toys.

The courtroom was silent for about three minutes while the two took turns picking babies.

Frances and Harold Mountain divorced four months ago. According to the divorce decree, the parties were supposed to divide up their Beanie Baby collection, estimated to be worth between $2,500 and $5,000.

But the man and woman failed to split up their toys by themselves. The collection was still in Frances' possession Thursday when Hardcastle heard Harold's motion to get his share of the litter.

"I'd just had enough," said Hardcastle, who has been a Family Court judge for seven years. "We spend a lot of time dealing with some simply unreasonable issues. They are time-consuming, expensive issues. A lot of our calendar is made up of just this kind of nonsense.

"So I told them to bring the Beanie Babies in, spread them out on the floor, and I'll have them pick one each until they're all gone." Hardcastle also invited reporters.

"If you're not embarrassed to stand in front of a District Court Judge and ask to have your Beanie Babies divided, why should you be embarrassed for the press to be there?" Hardcastle reasoned. "Maybe they don't want their neighbors to know. But I still think there's something to be said for people being held accountable for their actions, and (Harold) filed this motion that takes up court time."

Harold said he needs the money from his share of the Beanie Babies.

"But this is embarrassing," he said.

Frances Mountain's attorney, Frank Toti, said he didn't know how emotionally charged the disbursement of the toys would be to the couple.

"I don't know how attached they are to the Beanie Babies," Toti said. "I do know that some people get, well, for lack of a better word, goofy about them.

"And I think the judge is trying to illustrate how absurd our work can get. Two people should be able to divide up a Beanie Baby collection by themselves, without the help of the court."

The judge adjourned the hearing 10 minutes after it started. The parties took their babies and left.

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