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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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