J. Michael Eakin

J. Michael Eakin

J. Michael Eakin is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was elected to the State’s Supreme Court on 2001 and is up for reelection on 2011. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp] He was born in Mechanicsburg, PA on November 18, 1948. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp] He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1970 with a Bachelors of Arts (BA) in Government and obtained his JD, from Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law in 1975. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp] In 2005 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Widener University. [http://www.legalspan.com/catalog2/faculty.asp?UserID=2006090115022672348%20%20%20%20%20%20%20&OwnerColor=%23336699] He proudly served on Pennsylvania’s Army National Guard, 28th Division from 1971-1977. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp] After graduating from the Dickinson School of Law in 1975 and until 1983, he served as an Assistant District Attorney for Cumberland County, PA. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp] In 1984 he became the District Attorney for Cumberland County, PA a position he held until 1995 when he was elected as a Judge for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Superior Court. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp] This is a position he held until 2001 when he was elected to the State’s Supreme Court. [ [http://www.electionreturns.state.pa.us/ElectionsInformation.aspx?FunctionID=13&ElectionID=4&OfficeID=8 Commonwealth of PA - Elections Information ] ] He is currently married to Heidi Eakin and has three sons, Michael, Zachary and Chase. [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp]

Justice Eakin is better known in legal circles for the unorthodox way he pens his opinions. He enjoys writing his opinions in poetic verse when as he has stated, "The subject of the case (…) call [s] for a little grin here or there." [http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0212&L=poetics&D=1&P=50248] For this, he has joined a long list of Justices and Judges who have been heavily criticized for bringing literary insight into what has traditionally been boring and straight forward judicial decision making. [http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/lpop/etext/kearney.html]

And example of the types of judicial lyricism that Justice Eakin is known for is this rhyme he wrote regarding a premarital contract gone wrong:

"Conrad Busch filed a timely appeal,"
"Trying to avoid a premarital deal"
"Which says appellee need not pay him support,"
"He brings his case, properly, before this Court."
"They wanted to marry, their lives to enhance,"
"Not for the dollars--it was for romance."
"When they said "I do," had their wedding day kiss,"
"It was not about money--only marital bliss."
"But a deal's a deal, if fairly undertaken,"
"And we find disclosure was fair and unshaken."
"Appellant may shun that made once upon a time,"
"But his appeal must fail, lacking reason (if not rhyme)."
--"Busch v. Busch, 732 A.2d 1274, 1275, 1278 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1999)"

Another example if his prose would be this rhyme he wrote regarding a contract dispute:

"The emu's a bird quite large and stately,"
"Whose market potential was valued so greatly"
"That a decade ago, it was thought to be"
"The boom crop of the 21st century."

"Our appellant decided she ought to invest"
"In two breeding emus, but their conjugal nest"
"Produced no chicks, so she tried to regain"
"Her purchase money, but alas in vain."

"Appellant then filed a contract suit,"
"But the verdict gave her claim the boot;"
"Thus she was left with no resort"
"But this appeal to the Superior Court."
--"Liddle v. Scholze, 768 A.2d 1183 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2001)"

Perhaps his most currently commented opinion is his dissent on Noel v. Travis, where he disagreed with the majority who found that the appellant was in fact not guilty of a DUI after being found riding his horse while intoxicated. Justice Eakin wrote (in part):

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,"
"And no one can talk to a horse of course"
"That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed."
"Go right to the source and ask the horse"
"He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse."
"He's always on a steady course. Talk to Mr. Ed."

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,"
"but the Vehicle Code does not divorce"
"its application from, perforce,"
"a steed, as my colleagues said."
"It's not vague" I'll say until I'm hoarse,"
"and whether a car, a truck or horse"
"this law applies with equal force,"
"and I'd reverse instead."
"Because I cannot agree this statute is vague or ambiguous, I respectfully dissent."
--"Noel v. Travis, 857 A.2d 1283, 1289 (Pa. 2004)"

Due to the unorthodox way Justice Eakin pens his opinions, he has been criticized by his fellow Justices. [http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0212&L=poetics&D=1&P=50248] In Adam Liptak's article, "Justices Call on Bench's Bard to Limit his Lyricism", N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 15, 2002, Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala was quoted as writing that "An opinion that expresses itself in rhyme reflects poorly on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania." Justice Ralph J. Cappy was also quoted as stating that "Every jurist has the right to express him or herself in a manner the jurist deems appropriate, [but I am concerned about] the perception that litigants and the public at large might form when an opinion of the court is reduced to rhyme." However, Justice Eakin has justified his so-called “poetic justice” by stating that " [Y] ou have an obligation as a judge to be right, but you have no obligation to be dull." [http://listserv.acsu.buffalo.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0212&L=poetics&D=1&P=50248]

On 07/07/07, Judge Eakin and Attorney Matthew A. Cartwright, of Munley, Munley and Cartwright, presented "Ethics Issues for Trial Lawyers" to the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Annual Convention in Hershey, Pennsylvania.


External links

* [http://www.courts.state.pa.us/Index/Supreme/eakin.asp Official Supreme Court Profile]

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