Well Written Judicial Opinions Can Sometimes Cross the Line
People who read a lot of written judicial opinions often rejoice when they come across one that is actually well written. So many of them are dry and confusing with overdone precision. However, some judges can go too far to keep their writing fresh and original.
If there is a line, a Texas federal court judge recently tested it. Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery made headlines when he authored an opinion in the case he dubbed “The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Bikini Top Vs. The (More) Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Pastie.”
The First Amendment lawsuit involved a local ordinance in the city of San Antonio regulating adult entertainment establishments. To avoid being classified as a “human display establishment,” subject to permitting and licensing restrictions, strips clubs must require exotic dancers to cover their breasts with bikini tops rather than the traditional pastie.
In ultimately denying a local strip club’s request to block enforcement of the ordinance, Biery had a little fun at both parties’ expense. According to the Huffington Post’s count, the opinion, which it calls “one of the funniest, most eloquent court documents we’ve ever seen,” contain 17 double entendres.
Below are just a few:
- “An ordinance dealing with semi-nude dancers has once again fallen on the Court’s lap.”
- “To bare or not to bare, that is the question.”
- “The age old question before the Court, now with constitutional implications is: Does size matter?”
- “The Court infers Plaintiffs fear enforcement of the ordinance would strip them of their profits, adversely impacting their bottom line.”
Judge Biery concludes his opinion with this humorous yet provocative statement: “Should the parties choose to string this case out to trial on the merits, the Court encourages reasonable discovery intercourse as they navigate the peaks and valleys of litigation, perhaps to reach a happy ending.”
For another example of creative judicial writing, check out the opinion of U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright (C.D. Cal.). From statements like “resistance is futile,” Judge Wright appears to be a fan of Star Trek. His decision in a copyright infringement case also features other references fellow trekkies might appreciate, including: “though Plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage.”
Like Judge Biery, Judge Otis recites all of the relevant facts and provides ample case law to support his legal conclusion. He just has more fun getting from point A to point B.