Breaking up the court opinion monotony

November 16, 2010
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I read a lot of court opinions – more than I ever thought I would read as someone who has no formal legal education. In fact, when we had to read opinions in a media law class in college, I dreaded it and hoped to never have to do it again.

Cut to today where I read them every day now. I’ll admit, the process isn’t as painful as it was in college. However, that doesn’t mean that some of these opinions aren’t so dry that I lose interest quickly or need some sugar to keep me alert. Because of this, I’m quite appreciative when opinions are written with some wit, humor, or anything out of the ordinary.

Take for instance a not-for-publication opinion today authored by Chief Judge John Baker on the Indiana Court of Appeals. How’s this for a catchy first sentence: “Appellant-defendant Blake Parkins observes that breaking up is hard to do.”

I immediately had the song “Breaking up is hard to do” by Neil Sedaka (yes, I had to Google who originally sang it) in my head. Suddenly, this opinion has potential to entertain me! Perhaps now you have that song in your head after reading that sentence.

He goes on to write: “Surviving a breakup with a modicum of dignity—in a law-abiding fashion—is possible, however. Parkins should have learned how to carry on, turned around, and walked out the door, but instead he struck his former wife with a car while one of their young daughters was unrestrained in the backseat screaming for help.”

Of course, hitting your ex-wife with a car is not entertaining or funny. But when I read “carry on, turned around, and walked out the door” I then had the song “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor in my head.

Who knows if those songs were inspiration or if I’m just delirious from reading so many opinions that I’m just looking for something to make it more interesting, but I liked the references.

Let’s be frank: legal opinions are usually boring and cut-and-dry, and the point is to impart a legal ruling on an issue. They don’t need to be jazzy or snazzy, but as someone who has to frequently read them, I’m happy whenever there’s something a little out of the ordinary included. And “Breaking up is hard to do” is still stuck in my head, hours later.
 

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  • The Rule of Law?
    Cute, but the real question is not how entertaining the judges can be but rather this ... what do "not for publication" judgments say about our commitment to the rule of law? Is it the judiciary saying "ignore the man behind the curtain on this opinion, we simply must use a different set of rules for this party?" Yes, I am afraid that might very well be the case. In that case perhaps we should be hearing less Neil Sedaka and more Neil Young? "Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming ..." I could be biased, I am one who fell victim to such back room judging right here in Indiana. Dead not at Kent State, but before the IBLE with no deference to the Rule of Law -- or even a citation to one case.

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

  3. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  4. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  5. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

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