Skip to comments.Is rhyme a crime of judicial decorum when people implore 'em?
Posted on 12/08/2002 9:26:22 AM PST by vannrox
Is rhyme a crime of judicial decorum when people implore 'em?
Sunday, December 08, 2002
It seems more a question for Jerry Springer than for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
A 45-year-old multimillionaire meets a 17-year-old girl working in a ski shop. They begin a two-year courtship. He gives her a car, a couple of credit cards and sets her up in an apartment. Finally he proposes, handing her an engagement ring -- with a fake diamond.
They get married, but not before she signs a prenuptial agreement. She agrees that about all she'll keep after a divorce is $3,500 for each year of marriage, a car, insurance and her personal assets. Those include the engagement ring with a value the husband lists at 21 grand -- pretty steep for a cubic zirconium stone.
Despite this rock-solid foundation, the union crumbles after 10 years. Only then does the wife discover the truth. She files a petition to set aside the prenuptial agreement and get more dough. A trial court agrees. The state Superior Court affirms the lower court. Louis J. Porreco takes his appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Late last month, the high court decided that Susan J. Porreco had screwed up by trusting her husband's word.
"She had sufficient opportunity to inform herself fully of the nature and extent of her own assets, rather than rely on Louis' statements concerning the value of her holdings," Justice Sandra Schultz Newman wrote. "We find her failure to do this simple investigation unreasonable."
So the court let the prenuptial agreement stand. It did, however, order the case back to the Superior Court for review of another issue in the case.
I disagree with the decision. A man should be as good as his word. But that's not why I'm writing today. I'm writing because a couple of Supreme Court justices got their robes bunched up because one of their own also disagreed.
It wasn't Justice J. Michael Eakin's opinion that bothered Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr. and Justice Ralph Cappy, though. It was the way Eakin wrote his dissent, which began this way:
A groom must expect matrimonial pandemonium
when his spouse finds he's given her a cubic zirconium
Eakin is the rhyming judge. As a Superior Court judge, he wrote three opinions in rhyme. Eakin -- rhymes with bacon -- won election to the Supreme Court in November. Clearly, voters were not bothered by his penchant for verse.
She was 19, he was nearly 30 years older;
was it unreasonable for her to believe what he told her?
Given their history and Pygmalion relation,
I find her reliance was with justification . .
Or for every prenuptial is it now a must
that you treat your betrothed with presumptive mistrust?
These are just eight lines from a 28-line opinion, but you get the idea. Eakin was clear, concise and displayed some wit, three qualities that his colleagues apparently cannot abide.
"I write separately to address my grave concern that the filing of an opinion that expresses itself in rhyme reflects poorly on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania," Zappala petulantly penned in his opinion concurring with Newman.
"My concern," added Cappy, "lies with the perception that litigants and the public at large might form when an opinion of this court is reduced to rhyme."
No, we can't have a judge saying anything clever, anything that anyone might easily understand. That's a clear and present danger to the commonwealth.
I called Eakin, of Mechanicsburg, to see if this meant the end of his rhyming days. He wouldn't comment, but said his relationship with Zappala and Cappy remained "very collegial."
When I mentioned that his critics were Democrats and he is the new Republican, he discounted that with a laugh.
"You'll notice none of the Republicans joined me, either."
I hope his humorless colleagues don't deter Eakin from the occasional verse. Given that a recent predecessor on the court, Justice Rolf Larsen, was convicted of conspiring to accept mood-altering drugs in the names of his employees, a little poetry seems a refreshing way to alter the court's mood.
Zappy and Cappy might be unhappy
With Eakin's cute little verse.
But in Pennsylvania we don't often blame
a guy until he does worse.
Yeah, I know that stinks. That only goes to show how good Eakin is.
Shhh, ya Yunzer! I'm workin' on a limm'rick here! 'N'at.
Stories like this make BOTH my Limerick and 'Burgh Ping Thing lists!
|It's a 'Burgh||Thing.TM|
|Send FReepmail if you want on/off BPT list|
Some contend that a Cinquain's the thing,
or a Haiku, with its Yan and Ying;
I pondered a Sonnet,
then said, "Fie upon it!"
|And instead send this Limerick|
reat point. However, Susan wanted the pre-nup set aside and went for bigger game. StillI I think Judge Bacon needs to lay off the rhymes. It seems contemptuous of a court of law.
Can we hope anytime soon to see from the US Supremes anything resembling the following?
We here overturn Circuit Nine.
The Second Amendment's just fine.
The right to bear arms
Should cause no alarms.
At any rate, I'm keeping mine!
They're BOTH jagoffs.
The husband is a fraud, and the judge should keep poetry the heck out of his official rulings.
My personal favorite is Brown v. State, 134 Ga. App. 771 (1975), written by the inimitable Randall Evans, J.:
The D. A. was ready
His case was red-hot.
Defendant was present,
His witness was not. n.1
n1 See Wheat v. Fraker, 107 Ga. App. 318 (130 SE2d 251), for precedent in writing an opinion in rhyme.
He prayed one day's delay
From His honor the judge.
But his plea was not granted
The Court would not budge. n.2
n2 I profoundly apologize to Judge Sol Clark, of this court, for invading the field of innovation and departure from normalcy in writing opinions; especially in the copious use of footnotes.
So the jury was empaneled
All twelve good and true
But without his main witness
What could the twelve do? n.3
n3 This opinion is placed in rhyme because approximately one year ago, in Savannah at a very convivial celebration, the distinguished Judge Dunbar Harrison, Senior Judge of Chatham Superior Courts, arose and addressed those assembled, and demanded that if Judge Randall Evans, Jr. ever again was so presumptious as to reverse one of his decisions, that the opinion be written in poetry. I readily admit I am unable to comply, because I am not a poet, and the language used, at best, is mere doggerel. I have done my best, but my limited ability just did not permit the writing of a great poem. It was no easy task to write the opinion in rhyme.
The jury went out
To consider his case
And then they returned
The defendant to face.
"What verdict, Mr. Foreman?"
The learned judge inquired.
"Guilty, your honor."
On Brown's face -- no smile.
"Stand up" said the judge,
Then quickly announced
"Seven years at hard labor"
Thus his sentence pronounced.
"This trial was not fair,"
The defendant then sobbed.
"With my main witness absent
I've simply been robbed."
"I want a new trial --
State has not fairly won."
"New trial denied,"
Said Judge Dunbar Harrison.
"If you still say I'm wrong,"
The able judge did then say
"Why not appeal to Atlanta?
Let those Appeals Judges earn part of their pay."
"I will appeal, sir" --
Which he proceeded to do --
"They can't treat me worse
Than I've been treated by you."
So the case has reached us --
And now we must decide
Was the guilty verdict legal --
Or should we set it aside?
Justice and fairness
Must prevail at all times;
This is ably discussed
In a case without rhyme. n.4
n4 See Murphy v. State, 132 Ga. App. 654-658 (209 SE2d 101), wherein a well-written and well-reasoned opinion discusses the reasons why a denial of motion to continue in a criminal case was erroneous and subject to reversal.
The law of this State
Does guard every right
Of those charged with crime
Fairness always in sight.
To continue civil cases
The judge holds all aces.
But it's a different ball-game
In criminal cases. n.5
n5 See Hobbs v. State, 8 Ga. App. 53, 54 (68 SE 515), where it is demonstrated that a motion to continue in a criminal case must not be judged with the same meticulous severity as in civil cases.
Was one day's delay
Too much to expect?
Could the State refuse it
With all due respect?
Did Justice applaud
Or shed bitter tears
When this news from Savannah
First fell on her ears?
We've considered this case
Through the night -- through the day.
As Judge Harrison said,
"We must earn our poor pay."
This case was once tried --
But should now be rehearsed
And tried one more time.
This case is reversed!
Deen, P. J., and Stolz, J., concur.
I guess they're just behind the times in Pennsylvania . . . although I think there was an opinion written in rhyme a long time ago by a Federal Court in PA - Mackensworth was the name of one of the parties, it was a Jones Act (seaman's comp) case.
You MUST have some Illinois blood in you, to know that word!