The Real Slim Shady Is Not a Michigan Trial Judge

Michigan Circuit Court Judge Deborah Servitto rapped part of her recent decision dismissing a defamation case brought against Eminem.

Eminem’s 1999 CD, “The Slim Shady LP,” included a song called “Brain Damage” in which Eminem accused one DeAngelo Bailey of bullying and battering him while the two were in elementary school: “Way before my baby daughter Hailey, I was harassed daily by this fat kid named DeAngelo Bailey … He banged my head against the urinal until he broke my nose, soaked my clothes in blood, grabbed me and choked my throat.”

Bailey sued for defamation, denying that he ever bullied or battered Em. Servitto dismissed the complaint on the ground that the statements in the song were mere rhetorical hyperbole, rather than statements that could be construed as stating actual facts about a person.

Thanks to several loyal lawhaha.com visitors, we now have the full text of the attempted rap for you, which is found in the last footnote of Servitto’s 14-page opinion:

11. To convey the Court’s opinion to fans of rap, the Court’s research staff has helped the Court put the decision into a universally understandable format:

Mr. Bailey complains that his rap is trash

So he’s seeking compensation in the form of cash

Bailey thinks he’s entitled to some monetary gain

Because Eminem used his name in vain

Eminem says Bailey used to throw him around

Beat him up in the john, shoved his face in the ground

Eminem contends that his rap is protected

By the rights guaranteed by the first amendment

Eminem maintains that the story is true

And that Bailey beat him black and blue

In the alternative he states that the story is phony

And a reasonable person would think it’s baloney

The Court must always balance the rights

Of a defendant and one placed in a false light

If the plaintiff presents no question of fact

To dismiss is the only acceptable act

If the language used is anything but pleasin’

It must be highly objectionable to a person of reason

Even if objectionable and causing offense

Self-help is the first line of defense

Yet when Bailey actually spoke to the press

What do you think he didn’t address?

Those false light charges that so disturbed

Prompted from Bailey not a single word.

So highly objectionable it could not be

–Bailey was happy to hear his name on a CD

Bailey also admitted he was a bully in youth

Which makes what Marshall said substantial truth

This doctrine is a defense well known

And renders Bailey’s case substantially blown

The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact

They’re an exaggeration of a childish fact

Any reasonable person could clearly see

That the lyrics could only be hyperbole

It is therefore this Court’s ultimate position

That Eminem is entitled to summary disposition

Will Bailey appeal? Judge Servitto probably would advise him to just “peace out, dawg.”

— Bailey v. Mathers, Case No. 2001-3606-NO, slip op. at 13 n. 11 (Macomb County Circuit Court, Oct. 17, 2003). Thanks to Jason Blalock, Geoff Brown, Mark Rodan, and Melanie Ware.

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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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