Fun with opinions

July 10, 2008
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Typically court opinions are straight to the point about the merits of the case, the application of laws, and why the judge or judges decided to rule the way they did. That’s why it comes as a refreshing surprise when judges decide to state their reasoning in a unique, interesting, or funny way. It makes reading an opinion or court order a little bit more enjoyable.

Take a recent case out of Washington. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ordered the attorney for the plaintiffs involved in a racketeering suit against GMAC Mortgage to shorten his epic 465-page suit. In the order, Judge Leighton ended with a limerick to make his point:

Plaintiff has a great deal to say,

 But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a).

 His Complaint is too long,

 Which renders it wrong,

 Please re-write and re-file today.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a), by the way, says a pleading that states a claim for relief must contain “a short and plain statement …” of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction and of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief.

Chief Judge William B. Chandler III of the Delaware Court of Chancery has been known to interject pop-culture references into his opinions, making them interesting and entertaining. You have to admire a judge who in a July 1 opinion, relates the world of mergers and acquisitions to that of the video game “World of Warcraft.”

And IL reporter Michael Hoskins wrote an article last year about pop culture’s place in the law. In it, Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm said, “Legal writing doesn’t need to be high-brow; it’s actually better that it’s not.” Judges just have to be careful not to take the references too far, he cautioned.

I don’t know about you, but if more judges used pop-culture references and analogies comparing a video game to mergers and acquisitions, it would make me more excited to read opinions.

As someone who’s studied the law, do you appreciate it when a judge breaks away from the norm and throws in a sarcastic or humorous comment – as I’ve noticed in 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opinions – or pop-culture reference?
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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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