No Degrees of Separation

Six degrees of separation? Forget about it.

In Wheat v. Fraker (Ga. App. 1963), there weren’t any. The plaintiff, Doug Fraker, sued the defendant, Judd Wheat, for damages arising from an automobile collision. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff and the defendant appealed on the ground that (pay attention because this gets complicated) the wife of the foreman of the jury was the first cousin to the plaintiff’s wife. But wait, she was also the second cousin of the defendant! How could any judge pass up the opportunity to have fun with this family affair? Here are excerpts from the poetic opinion:

“Foul, foul play,” the defendant cried.

“That I by kinsman be not trammeled

Let the issue again be tried

Before another jury impanelled.”

“With juror mine adversary durst

Try the cause, whose wife is second cousin to my wife

And to plaintiff’s wife a first.

A new trial, sire, I demand to settle strife.”

“No foul play do I find or see,”

The judge replied. “Foreman’s wife to thine

And to plaintiff’s wife may kinsman be,

but to Doug and thee no kinship do I find.

“Thus, it doth not appear

For any cause or reason told

That the juror was not thy peer

The case to try and verdict mold.”

“Moreover, when kinships we sought to learn

It doth not appear that as best befits

One who would a kinsman spurn

Thou revealed that cousin did on the panel sit.”

Wheat v. Fraker, 130 S.E.2d 251, 252 (Ga. Ct. App. 1963). Thanks to Senior District Judge James Barlow, San Antonio, TX.

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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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