I Thought that We Would Never See A Judge as Tolerant as Thee

With several rhyming judges having fun with people’s cases, one must wonder what the judges would do if the shoe was on the other foot–if lawyers submitted rhyming court documents in a case, perhaps a poetic brief. Now we know! Well, at least with regard to one tolerant judge.

In Mackensworth v. American Trading Transportation Co., a judge responded as a good sport to some poetic pleadings submitted by counsel. For reasons unknown, the plaintiff’s lawyer submitted a poetic reply brief, stirring defense counsel to reply poetically as well.

U.S. District Judge Edward R. Becker decided to be a good sport and join in the fun. Although not set out in this excerpt, the West headnote writers once again had a good rhyme time with the case. Here are some excerpts from Judge Becker’s order:

The motion now before us has stirred up a terrible fuss.

And what is considerably worse, it has spawned some preposterous doggerel verse.

The plaintiff, a man of the sea,

after paying his lawyer a fee,

filed a complaint of several pages to recover statutory wages.

The pleaded facts remind us of a tale that is endless.

A seaman whom for centuries the law has called “friendless”

is discharged from the ship before voyage’s end

and sues for lost wages, his finances to mend.

***

 

Plaintiff’s counsel, whose name is Harry Lore,

read defendant’s brief and found it a bore.

Instead of a reply brief, he acted pretty quick

and responded with a clever limerick:

“Admiralty process is hoary

With pleadings that tell a sad story

Of Libels in Rem-

The bane of sea-faring men

The moral:

Better personally served than be sorry.”

 

Not to be outdone, the defense took the time

to reply with their own clever rhyme.

The defense counsel team of Mahoney, Roberts, & Smith

drafted a poem cutting right to the pith:

 

“Admiralty lawyers like Harry

Both current and those known from lore

Be they straight types, mixed or fairy

Must learn how to sidestep our bore.

For Smith, not known for his mirth

With his knife out for Mackensworth

With Writs, papers or Motions to Quash

Knows that dear Harry’s position don’t wash.”

 

Overwhelmed by this outburst of pure creativity,

we determined to show an equal proclivity.

Hence this opinion in the form of verse,

even if not of the calibre of Saint-John Perse.

[Court proceeds to wax poetic about long arm jurisdiction, concluding with:]

Finding that service of process is bona fide,

the motion to dismiss is hereby denied.

So that this case can now get about its ways,

defendant shall file an answer within 21 days.

Mackensworth v. Am. Trading Transp. Co., 367 F. Supp. 373, 374–75, 377 (E.D. Pa. 1973). Thanks to Lihwei Lin.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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