Do Judicial Opinions Have to Be Dull?

Maryland Judge Really Has a Way with Words


By Emilie Eastman

“Unlike the bullet or the misplaced banana peel, the effect of toxic substances on the body is often subtle and slow, leaving cause uncertain.”

That’s not how many judges begin their official written opinions. But for Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Robert McDonald, a little flair goes a long way.

McDonald, a Harvard Law School graduate and a former chief counsel for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, was appointed to the state’s highest court nearly two years ago. Since then, he has written several opinions that include literary references, creative rhetoric or even a touch of humor.

“I think one thing that all the judges try to do when they write opinions is to, hopefully, make them accessible and understandable to even people who are not lawyers,” he said.

The banana peel example introduced the court’s March opinion in a case in which a woman was seeking damages, claiming she was exposed to lead paint as a child.

McDonald’s literary citations in other cases have included references to Shakespeare and the Bible.

While McDonald said he doesn’t view his written opinions as particularly unique, the judge’s lingual liberties are fairly uncommon for a court opinion.


The complete story can be found here.

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