Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Legal Haiku

Having taken the rash step yesterday of tweeting three legal haiku that I composed thirty years ago, I figured that I would also post them here for any aficionados of the genre.

Some brief background: As a third-year law student at Harvard in the spring of 1985, I took Professor David Shapiro’s excellent course on Federal Courts. For readers who haven’t gone to law school, I’ll note that such a course addresses the scope and limits of federal judicial power, including matters like injunctive relief, ripeness, and mootness.

One day Professor Shapiro introduced us to the art of legal haiku—three lines of five, seven, and five syllables, preferably with some clever wordplay about the law—and invited us to submit our own creations. Mine, as it happens, won his competition:

Legal haiku is

Acid rain’s poetic form.

Enjoin this nuisance!

When I should have been studying harder for the final exam in the course, I instead drafted an opening and a closing haiku for the exam. Here’s what I wrote at the beginning of the exam:

I envy judges

Since they need not entertain

Hypotheticals.

And at the end:

It is clearly true,

Is it not, that I have passed?

Cf. Defunis.

(This last one, which mimicked the rhetorical style of our Hart & Wechsler casebook, may be my favorite, but, alas, there might be about three people in the country who would get it.)

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