Using poetry, judge flushes inmate's lawsuit over soiled pants
The stench of a frivolous lawsuit inspired a longtime Franklin County judge to employ poetry in dismissing the case on Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed in October by an inmate at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, who accused a correction officer of causing him to soil his pants on Sept. 17 while standing in line for recreation at the prison.
Darek Lathan wrote that he warned the officer he was struggling with a cold and diarrhea from taking cold showers in the prison, but wasn’t allowed to get out of line.
He suffered “harassment, embarrassment, riddiculing (sic) and emotional distress” when other inmates began laughing at him after the bathroom accident, he wrote. The lawsuit asked for $2 million in damages.
Common Pleas Judge David E. Cain used five stanzas of verse to rule that Lathan, the plaintiff, has no case:
Cold showers caused his bowels to malfunction
Or so the plaintiff claims
A strict uncaring prison guard
Is whom the plaintiff blames.
While in line for recreation
And little time for hesitation
His anal sphincter just exploded
The plaintiff’s britches quickly loaded.
It made the inmates laugh and play
To see the plaintiff’s pants this way
The foul, unsightly, putrid mess
Caused the plaintiff major stress.
Claiming loss and shame to boot
The plaintiff filed the present suit
But the law provideth no relief
From such unmitigated grief.
Neither runs nor constipation
Can justify this litigation
Whether bowels constrict or flex
De minimus non curat lex.
The last line is a Latin phrase meaning, “the law does not concern itself with trifles.”
“I read the complaint and quickly concluded that it was totally frivolous,” Cain said after the ruling was posted on the court Website.
“You know, if he is going to file something that frivolous, he can’t expect me to be too judicious in how I respond. He can’t expect me to take it seriously.”
A judge for nearly 30 years, Cain said this was the first time he has issued a decision in rhyme.
“I only have three years to go” before an age restriction prevents him from seeking re-election, he said. “If there’s anything I want to do, I better get about doing it. I just wanted to have some fun.”
Lathan, 47, arrived at the prison in early September to serve a 17-month sentence for a vandalism conviction in Lucas County, according to Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records. The suit was filed in Franklin County because that’s where the department is headquartered.
Cain said he spent about an hour composing the poem, not counting a break for lunch.
The judge is comfortable working in words. He began his career as a writer, earning a journalism degree from Ohio University in 1965 and working as a Dispatch reporter for a decade before getting his law degree. In the 1970s, he was among those who wrote song parodies poking fun at local personalities for the Press Club’s Gridiron Shows.
“We have to have some fun every once in a while in this job,” he said.