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Judges Say the Darndest Things is a collection of humorous excerpts from legal opinions. Examples:

"If you throw a skunk into the jury box, you can't instruct the jury not to smell it." Dunn v. United States, 307 F.2d 883, 886 (5th Cir. 1962)

"To be clearly erroneous, a decision must strike us as … wrong with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish." Parts And Electric Motors, Inc. v. Sterling Electric, Inc., 866 F.2d 228, 233 (7th Cir. 1988)

​"How and where do we draw a line between public figures and private individuals? They are nebulous concepts. Defining public figures is much like trying to nail a jellyfish to the wall." Rosanova v. Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440, 443 (S.D. Ga. 1976)

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                   Review by Laura O'Flanagan


The title gives this compilation away. It is a hand-picked series of humorous and refreshing court opinions that demonstrate the foibles of our chosen profession. Fred Shackelford does an excellent job presenting these excerpts with enough narration to thread sets of case decisions together and to give the reader a good chuckle.

It is interesting to note how frequently judges refer to the analogy of law as a ship on turbulent seas. Also, it is reassuring to observe that judges everywhere and for ages have discovered language that can be used to bludgeon the attorneys before them. In one case, a judge verbally trounced a party for requesting $3,000,000,000,000 in damages resulting from an alleged deprivation of constitutional rights. In another case, the court chided a seller for not disclosing the fact that a ghost resided in the home at the time of sale.

How revitalizing to read about the humor in our ongoing efforts in the courtroom. I am especially fond of the selected judges' use of language. There are examples of beautiful prose, prolific legalese, slang, and clear and simple "straight talk."

The most enjoyable thing about the compilation is that it gives an attorney an opportunity to view the legal profession as more than a place to resolve sometimes complex and painful conflict. Judges Say the Darndest Things reminds us that we can laugh at ourselves. The book shows us that there is room for creativity and artful expression as well as honest, funny, constructive criticism in our courtrooms.

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