Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Opinion number two comes from (I'll lay my cards on the table at the outset this time) the Iowa Supreme Court. An employee of a Dubuque meatpacking plant--a plant known to native Dubuquers like my parents as "The Pack," though not identified as such in the opinion--brought a race discrimination suit, and the court characterized the nature of the work at The Pack as follows:
The plant slaughtered hogs and processed pork. The working conditions were noisy and cold, and many jobs were gruesome and bloody. The work was fast-paced, repetitious, generally stressful, and sometimes unstimulating.
This is a marvelous little bit of writing. As befits the subject matter, the sentences are short, direct, and filled with simple but evocative words. The first two sentences are perfectly balanced, each built on a parallelism. And final one deploys the time-honored rhetorical device of the list in expert fashion, culminating in a hilarious morsel of understatement.

I don't know whether the author (Justice Mark S. Cady) always writes like this, or whether he just got lucky. Alas, the latter is more likely, since most judges seem compelled to adopt a sort of (court)house style: competent but mechanical and dull, leached of any hint of wit or grace. Frequently unstimulating, one might say. Posner is one of the very few reliable exceptions; perhaps Cady is headed that way too. We can only hope.


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