NY Judge Has a Mind for ‘Ridiculous Details’ and Sprinkles Them Throughout His Opinions

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Judge Philip Straniere of New York’s Staten Island has been hooked on humor ever since he got a laugh in an elementary school play.

Now the 63-year-old civil court judge uses that humor in opinions that have attracted a following among lawyers and even other judges, the New York Times reports. Sprinkled throughout the rulings are fictional characters ranging from SpongeBob SquarePants to Old Yeller, and musicals ranging from Oklahoma to the Wizard of Oz.

“In 14 years on the bench,” the Times says, “Judge Straniere has built a following for entertaining judicial writing that tends to take some twists and turns. He has been known to opine for no obvious reason that Papa John’s does not sell what New Yorkers call pizza and that Clark Kent ‘was in fact only a person who understood the difference between right and wrong.’ ”

Straniere told the Times his goal was to make his opinions easy to understand. While he relies on reference works such as books of quotations, he also credits his memory. “I have a mind that can remember all these ridiculous details,” he told the Times.

The story offers several examples from Straniere’s opinions, including these:

• In a case brought by a plaintiff who had defaulted on mortgages for Florida investment properties, the opinion begins with lyrics from “The American Dream,” including this line, “Come and get more than your share.” Later in the opinion Straniere quotes Oliver Hardy, “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

• In a case involving a consumer who failed to follow the rules of credit card companies, he wrote that credit card country is “like the Land of Oz, run by a Wizard who no one has ever seen.”

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