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"Do you have any examples of judges' either really witty or really dumb opinions?"


Hi Rigoletto,

Over the years, I've noted a few of each type. Unfortunately, I didn't make a habit of saving them. I wish I had. If you can find a copy, Prosser's "The Judicial Humorist" is an entertaining read. It's been out of print for many years, but one can often find a copy at a good law school library. Prosser (Dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School, I think, at the time he edited and published the book)collected a variety of what he considered to be humorous legal writings. Some were opinions by various judges. Others were legal pleadings or memoranda. I've been looking for a copy to buy for years (in good condition and at a price I'm willing to pay), but have yet to find one that meets my requirements. You might find it entertaining, although some of the examples in his collection are so esoterically "inside" that they might be amusing only to lawyers. "The Compleat Answer" is one that comes to mind, totally hilarious to lawyers, but perhaps not overly amusing to non-lawyers (ha -- there's one of those pesky hyphens).

At one time, we had a Justice on our Supreme Court who was a fairly bright guy (but not nearly as bright as he thought he was). His opinions (particularly his dissents) were infamous in the Wyoming State Bar as particularly egregious examples of legal gobbledygook. The voters finally got tired of him and turned him out (hard to do when there's no opponent and the vote is simply keep him or not). I'm not sure they qualified as "really dumb," but they were pretty nigh impossible to understand. My favorite example of his writing was a letter he wrote while still a lawyer to the District Judge in a case where I was adverse to him. He liked to fire out long letters with a comment under his name as follows: (dictated but not read). In this instance, he had apparently read it, because he had added a postscript that read somewhat as follows: Judge, I read this this morning and I'm not sure what I was getting at, but I thought I'd send it along anyway. The Judge handed it to me in chambers and asked if I had any idea what he was trying to say. I had to inform the Judge that I didn't have the foggiest idea, but I appreciated the opportunity to review it, since he hadn't bothered to copy me as the adverse lawyer.

I'll look around my library and see if I can recommend any others to you.

Cheers for now,

Cal

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