Judges spend all day reading dry, often badly-written prose, and writing even drier prose. It is no wonder that they will jump at an excuse to exercise their creativity. One of the ways that typically manifests is, for some reason, in poetry.

Here are three opinions in verse to start out your Friday.

Marijuana farmer loses his truck

Often, a judges waxes poetic when the subject of the case lends itself to verse. When two musicians are suing one another, and that sort of thing. I have no idea what inspired the judge in this forfeiture case, but for whatever reason, Judge Wangelin of Missouri wrote the whole thing as a poem. Here is how it begins:

The defendant herein is a truck,
The vehicle is a pick-up,
Alleged by a fed
To be found in a bed
Of marijuana, caught in the muck.

United States v. One 1976 Ford F-150 Pickup

A sea shanty for a sailor seeking unpaid wages

I can see how a judge might be tempted to clarify his verse with footnotes, just to make sure nobody is confused about the meaning. Not Judge Becker of Pennsylvania. He even went to the trouble of rhyming his footnotes, so as not to leave anything out. It begins:

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.

Mackensworth v. American Trading Transportation Co.

File a rhyme, get a rhyme

It would never occur to me to file a rhyming brief. But one Pennsylvania lawyer did — and got a rhyming opinion in response.

Thus, before the bar of court
This defendant must report.
He shall have to do his time,
For punishment must fit the crime.
And that will have to end this rhyme.

I’m sure the defendant was not amused.

United States v. Rosado, No. CIV.A.90-00457 (E.D. Pa. April 12, 1991)

More rhyming opinions

There are plenty more rhyming judicial opinions. Here are some more:

  • “Judicial Humor” (Gallagher Law Library)
  • Tag: Poetic Judges (McClurg’s Legal Humor)



  1. Lisa Solomon says:

    In Poetic Justice: From Bad to Verse (available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1301637), legal writing expert Gerald Lebovits argues that “[p]oetic justice is always entertaining, but rarely poetic or just.” The article also quotes a number of additional poetic opinions.

  2. Damien Riehl says:

    It doesn’t rhyme, but in 1999, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page cited Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who. http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12984468045590972886&q=Seuss&hl=en&as_sdt=2,24

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