A Poetic Dissent:

A commenter to my Sunday Song Lyric post below linked to this gem of a dissenting opinion.

SuperSkeptic (mail):
Is there some good database out there with all/most of these type of poetic opinions? Anyone?
9.6.2009 7:26pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
That's simply wonderful. Too bad it wasn't the prevailing decision.
9.6.2009 7:27pm
Hmm - hardly a gem. The writer seems to have no grasp of the idea that the genre of humorous verse requires rhythm. This is just a bunch of lines with words that rhyme at the end. It's like playing tennis without the net.

More to the point, though, these typically pathetic attempts by judges to be funny, even when they don't fall flat, are inappropriate for the forum in question. People take courts seriously not just because they have coercive power, but because they have a certain symbolic power. That's what the black robes and the ceremony are all about. It's an inexpensive way to increase the probability of compliance, and judges should not monkey around with it. Even if the judge put a lot of thought into deciding this case and took it very seriously, it's not going to look that way to the parties.
9.6.2009 7:29pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

I disagree. The opinion states concisely and memorably why the majority is wrong. It provides, through footnotes, proper authorities to support the point.

It also guarantees that the judge's main objection doesn't go unnoticed-- that the problem with the majority's viewpoint is that it presumes a high level of mistrust is due in prenuptual agreements.

I don't think it was an attempt to be funny or witty. I think it was an attempt to ensure that the principle (betrothed don't presume eachother to be dishonest) doesn't get lost in the details.
9.6.2009 7:41pm
Mark N. (www):
SuperSkeptic: this, this, this, or this might be some of the sort of thing you're looking for.

Pedant: There are plenty of folks (pp. 429-432) who agree.
9.6.2009 7:42pm
Pedant, perhaps it's meant to be read at a dynamic pace, like a lot of Jay-Z's stuff.
9.6.2009 7:52pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mark N:
You missed this one.

Actually, I think the poetry was misplaced in Busch v. Busch because it gets in the way of understanding the issues of the case. Reading it I can't help but think a traditional format (homeric hexameter prose) would have been more effective in that case. While the reasoning is clear, the poetic form gets in the way of placing it in context with other cases.

In the link in the original post, however, the poem is shorter, and it addresses the key disagreement with the majority. It does so in a way which is fundamentally memorable. Consequently the use of poetry in that case seems quite appropriate.
9.6.2009 8:02pm

"When you first come in the game, they try to play you
Then you drop a couple of hits, look how they wave to you."

In other words, once legal lyricism becomes a required first-year course, the quality of jurisprudential verse will improve.
9.6.2009 8:03pm
SuperSkeptic (mail):
Much appreciated.
9.6.2009 9:06pm
FC wrote at 9.6.2009 8:03pm:
In other words, once legal lyricism becomes a required first-year course, the quality of jurisprudential verse will improve.
Here are two examples of the same fairly well known legal couplet quoted, from John Leycester Adolphus, The Circuiteers, An Eclogue (1839).

One is in a federal decision. The other in a brief to the FL Supreme Court.

One or the other quoted it incorrectly. In both cases the couplet is quoted in full in a footnote. By coincidence, in each the FN is #3.

Gibson v. Gary Housing Authority, 754 F.2d 205 (1985)

In Case No. SC05-1294 (PDF)

9.6.2009 9:15pm
supra shoes (mail) (www):
Cool website, like what I have read. Will definitely be back to read again.
9.7.2009 2:18am
troll_dc2 (mail):
Sometimes a great opinion does not have rhymes or puns. Instead, it has jokes. Judge Gerald Weber of the Western District of Pennsylvania was very good at telling the right story for the case before him. I recall a case (Prandini v. National Tea Co., on remand from 585 F.2d 47) in which he had been forced by the Third Circuit to try for a third time to determine an attorneys' fees award in a Title VII case, and he told the story of an opera audience in a provincial Italian city applauding a singer's aria so that she would do an encore and then doing so again. A member of the audience turned to the person next to him and protested that she wasn't all that good. Yes, he was told, and we're going to keep applauding until she gets it right.

He also expressed frustration over a discovery matter in a case that I believed was Martin v. City of Pittsburgh. He compared the maneuvers of the lawyers to those of toy soldiers.
9.7.2009 4:00pm
LarryR (mail):
Separate from the rhyming argument, the thing that interested me from all the opinions is that the judges in Penn. have developed a body of case law that makes it fairly easy to dispense with prenuptial agreements, even based on some absurdly flimsy reasons (I don't mean outright fraud). The majority ultimately ruled that this agreement should be upheld, but I've seldom seen other contracts get treated like prenups.

You can tell those judges' sympathies by how much tortured the reasoning is.
9.8.2009 11:38am

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