Ode to Legalese, by Judge Kevin Emas

It’s a special day indeed when a sitting appellate judge contributes some verse to our site. Judge Kevin Emas’s lively poem was selected as the winner of the Dade Bar Bulletin Poetry Contest in September 1990. And how true it remains! 

Dade Bar Bulletin 09/1990

The original poem, in situ.


English, some say, is the tongue of the day,
From Burma, to Bonn, to Tabriz,
But lawyers who toil, in the midnight oil,
Know the true choice is Legalese.

It’s fine to be clear when a layman is near,
Or you need to collect on your fees,
But when suing a landlord, defending a drug lord,
Our minds fill with Legalese.

“Wherefore, to-wit,” we’ll never admit,
We’re shoveling it up to our knees,
So we wink and we smile, the lawyers beguile,
To save face with Legalese.

No defense to a claim of intent to defame?
Argue law or your equities,
But if you’re in doubt, whip your best pleading out,
And re-write it in Legalese.

Some lawyers have clamored, they’ve hollered and hammered,
To rid the world of this disease,
But it mutates and changes, frustrates and deranges,
And lives on as Legalese.

Someday I suppose, with enough angry foes,
They’ll do in our loquacious pleas,
But give silent devotion, ’cause there just ain’t no motion,
Like one done in Legalese.

Kevin M. Emas
Judge, Third District Court of Appeal
Miami, Florida