- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008


Noble: Federal Judge Ronald Leighton of Takoma, Wash., for fighting legal verbiage with a limerick and the law after a plaintiff’s massive plaint.

Mounds of verbal ballast can mean a win for the rule of lawyers and a defeat for the rule of law. But federal Judge Ronald Leighton prefers justice’s twin handmaidens of clarity and brevity. As the Associated Press reported this week, the 2002 federal appointee balked at a voluminous 465-page racketeering lawsuit filed in his court. He invoked a rarely used rule requiring a “short and plain statement” of the allegations. Attorney Dean Browning Webb’s title alone was eight pages long.

Judge Leighton - himself a former trial lawyer - leads the way to brevity. Here is the response as he delivered it:

Plaintiff has a great deal to say,

But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a).

His Complaint is too long,

Which renders it wrong,

Please rewrite and refile today.

For 27 words to stand on principle and entertain us all, Judge Leighton is the Noble of the Week.

Knave: Spain, for granting due process to apes, and Germany, which may extend voting rights to children, including toddlers and newborns.

How unserious are Western democracies about civil and political rights? Well, take Spain. This week, the Spanish Parliament’s environmental committee approved a measure to commit the country to the Declaration on Great Apes. This volley against “speciesism” states (among other things) that gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans may not be imprisoned without due legal process. According to Reuters, the measure is likely to become law next year. Opposing cruelty to animals is one thing. Confusing democracy with “Planet of the Apes” is quite another.

Then there is Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party. It believes that 14 million Germans - many in diapers - are “excluded from political decision making,” as FDP chief Dirk Niebel told the Daily Telegraph. Incredibly, the notion that children deserve full voting rights has attracted allies in mainstream German parties including the conservative Christian Democratic Union and the free-market Free Democratic Party. The “infantilization of politics” was never supposed to be so literal.

For this mockery of civil rights in two proud countries, German and Spanish lawmakers are the Knaves of the Week.

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