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Judge Uses Humor Seriously


Ohio appeals judge Mark Painter thinks legal opinions can be dull and boring, so he tries to liven things up a bit.

Painter spurns legalese and quotes experts ranging from Humpty Dumpty to comedian Ron “Tater Salad” White. He travels to seminars around the country on a mission to change the way judges and lawyers communicate, according to a profile in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Painter quoted Tater Salad, for example, for this gem of wisdom in a drunken driving case: “Clearly [he] had the right to remain silent, but not the ability.”

“My passion is improving legal writing,” Painter, of the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals, told the newspaper. “Too often, judges and lawyers just write for each other. They use so much legalese, you get to the end, and you don’t know what happened.”

Steven Johansen, a board member of the Legal Writing Institute, supports Painter’s goals, the newspaper said. “A lot of legal writing is done by using forms that were designed by people who died many years ago, and deservedly so,” he says.

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