Ohio judge uses verse to deny lawsuit

Lathan was sentenced in January 2015 to 17 months in prison after pleading guilty to felony vandalism


Reuters January 09, 2016
Lathan was sentenced in January 2015 to 17 months in prison after pleading guilty to felony vandalism. PHOTO: OSMA

CLEVELAND: A judge in Columbus wrote a poem to let a prisoner suing an Ohio penitentiary for “emotional distress” know that his lawsuit was being denied and read it in court.

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Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David E Cain, 72, dismissed Darek Lathan’s lawsuit seeking $2 million in damages over a denied bathroom break.

Lathan, an inmate at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient near Columbus, filed three civil lawsuits against the prison in October. The case before Cain involved an accident Lathan had when a guard did not let him leave a line to use the bathroom.

Lathan was sentenced in January 2015 to 17 months in prison after pleading guilty to felony vandalism. The last line translates as "the law takes no account of trifles," the judge said.

Author and humorist Sean Carter, who practiced law for 10 years, said the poem was a bit graphic and the humor may have been better used in a corporate security lawsuit, but the poem did not affect the legality of the decision.

"There is no grounds for appeal because a judge is silly," Carter said, adding, "You would not want to read this opinion over lunch."

The judge said Lathan's lawsuit was filed incorrectly and was in the wrong court. “This was even more frivolous than we are used to seeing so I thought I would have a little fun with it,” Cain said on Friday.

This is the first time the judge, who has been on the bench for 30 years, has used rhyme for a legal decision, but the former newspaper reporter wrote song parodies for press events in the 1970s.

Cain said the poem added a little levity to what is normally a serious job. “It was a change from going into a courtroom and hearing about wrecks, rapes and robberies,” he said.

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As of Friday, Lathan’s three personal injury lawsuits filed in Franklin County Court had been dismissed.

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