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 what do "not for publication" judgments say about our commitment to the rule of law?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. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!!!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

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