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Sunday, December 01, 2002

Opinions in Rhyme: Giving the Litigants Exactly What They Deserve.

In a recent blog to The Corner, Kathryn Lopez reported a story about a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice who wrote an entire opinion in rhyme concerning a dispute over the validity of a prenuptual agreement. She seemed to share the opinion of the Justice's disapproving colleagues, stating "This judge...has issues."

I beg to differ: He showed the case exactly the respect it deserved. From the context, the parties were, to use technical legal jargon, jerks. And, given the facts of the case, they apparently obtained counsel worthy of their respective causes, which were identical: screw the ex. Patrick Keenan, my criminal law professor at UDM, once said that given the choice between representing a murderer or a divorce client, he'd choose the former: on average, the murderer has a more finely-tuned sense of mercy. Having witnessed a divorce case that involved a dispute over nose hair clippers, I'm inclined to agree.

The Perreco case is the kind that drives sensible judges to fits of disgust. It is likely that, by the end, the trial judge was grimly scanning case law looking for authority to order body cavity searches for the both of them.

Done with fiberglass mittens.

It probably didn't get any better on appeal. In any event, rhyming opinions have an established legal pedigree. I'm proud to say Michigan's Court of Appeals contributed an appropriate gem in a claim for auto insurance benefits filed on behalf of a tree. In other words, Justice Eakin stands in a proud tradition, and his colleagues are off-base.

If Justice Eakin is interested, there is authority for a terse, if intemperate, rebuttal. It is found in Footnote 2 of the majority opinion in People v. Arno, 90 Cal.App.3d 505 (1979) (scroll way down):

"“We feel compelled by the nature of the attack in the dissenting opinion to spell out a response:

“1. Some answer is required to the dissent’s charge.
“2. Certainly we do not endorse ‘victimless crime.’
“3. How that question is involved escapes us.
“4. Moreover, the constitutional issue is significant.
“5. Ultimately it must be addressed in light of precedent.
“6. Certainly the course of precedent is clear.
“7. Knowing that, our result is compelled.'”

Look very closely at the footnote. No help?

Spell out the first letters of each sentence. Now what do you think?


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