Poetic Justice

Roses are red, violets are blue. When Superior Court Judge Michael Eakin writes an opinion, he sometimes resorts to verse.

Except his poems rhyme.

For the second time in his career, Eakin wrote an opinion in rhyming verse. In May 1999, Eakin upheld the prenuptial agreement of a divorcing couple in a series of rhyming couplets.

Last week, Eakin used 121 lines of verse to deny an appeal by a man who had been ordered to pay more than one-thousand dollars in veterinary bills after hitting a miniature poodle with his car. The opinion was first written in a normal fashion and then turned into a poem.

The poodle case originated in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg. Julia Zangrando was walking her two dogs in an area without sidewalks in December 1997 when a car driven by Jan Sipula struck one of the dogs.

An Allegheny County judge ruled Sipula was negligent and responsible for the veterinarian bills. Sipula appealed to Superior Court, insisting Zangrando was at fault for walking the dogs in the street.

That's where Eakin penned his poem. It begins:

"Appellee and two little dogs were walking down the street,
tending to business as they went, but soon they were to meet.
Appellant, who this wintry day was driving toward the pair;
their mistress reined them to a stop along the thoroughfare.
Angel and Autumn were their names, one white, one apricot;
to walk beside her on a leash was their happy, lifelong lot."

Eakin cited case law throughout the ruling, backing up the court's assertion that Zangrando's attorneys were barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. He wrote:

"So while counsel raises issues that are worthy and well taken
in the end, we find the effort to apply them here's mistaken.
We must conclude the issues raised do not warrant a new trial
and all that we may offer now is this respectful, rhymed denial."