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This is a real opinion from the Georgia Court of Appeals. The Judge writing the opinion was Randall Evans, who was an infamous trial attorney before being appointed to the bench. He made his reputation representing farmers and getting huge verdicts when their land was condemned and taken by the State Highway Department while building I-20.

The Judge being reversed is Dunbar Harrison of Savannah, Chief Judge of the Chatham Superior Court. He passed away in 1998 at age 94.

Both judges were the kind of characters you don't find on the bench today.

Judge Harrison retired from the bench in 1976, and afterwards, he was called on from time to time to try cases in other counties. I had the pleasure of trying one of those cases and asked him about this opinion.

Judge Harrison said he and his old friend Judge Evans got together at a Georgia Bar Association meeting in Savannah. Judge Harrison said he was complaining about a case Judge Evans had reversed, and they spent a good bit of time arguing the legal principles over a considerable amount of alcohol. Judge Harrison told Judge Evans that next time, he wanted the reversal in rhyme. Thus this opinion.

Update - July 2015 We received an email from Judge Evans daughter, Beverly Evans Rogers, and she wants folks to know that if alcohol was involved, it was not partaken by her father. She says he was a teetotaler his whole life. We're happy to correct the inference. Regardless, this is one of the great opinions in Georgia legal history.


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Brown, Harrison and Evans - A Story in Rhyme
Thursday, May 16, 2002   By: J.E. Simmons

The Georgia Court of Appeals resorts to rhyme to reverse a criminal case. Yes, alcohol is involved.

BROWN v. STATE, 134 Ga. App. 771 (1975) 216 S.E.2d 356

 EVANS, Judge.

The D. A. was ready
His case was red-hot.
Defendant was present,
His witness was not.[fn1]

He prayed one day's delay
From His honor the judge.
But his plea was not granted
The Court would not budge.[fn2]

So the jury was empanelled
All twelve good and true
But without his main witness
What could the twelve do?[fn3]

The jury went out
To consider his case
And then they returned
The defendant to face.

"What verdict, Mr. Foreman?"
The learned judge inquired.
"Guilty, your honor."
On Brown's face - no smile.

"Stand up" said the judge,
Then quickly announced
"Seven years at hard labor"
Thus his sentence pronounced.

"This trial was not fair,"
The defendant then sobbed.
"With my main witness absent
I've simply been robbed."

"I want a new trial -
State has not fairly won."
"New trial denied,"
Said Judge Dunbar Harrison.

"If you still say I'm wrong,"
The able judge did then say
"Why not appeal to Atlanta?
Let those Appeals Judges earn part of their pay."

"I will appeal, sir"
Which he proceeded to do
"They can't treat me worse
Than I've been treated by you."

So the case has reached us
And now we must decide
Was the guilty verdict legal
Or should we set it aside?

Justice and fairness
Must prevail at all times;
This is ably discussed
In a case without rhyme.[fn4]

The law of this State
Does guard every right
Of those charged with crime
Fairness always in sight.

To continue civil cases
The judge holds all aces.
But it's a different ball-game
In criminal cases.[fn5]

Was one day's delay
Too much to expect?
Could the State refuse it
With all due respect?

Did Justice applaud
Or shed bitter tears
When this news from Savannah
First fell on her ears?

We've considered this case
Through the night - through the day.
As Judge Harrison said,
"We must earn our poor pay."

This case was once tried
But should now be rehearsed
And tried one more time.
This case is reversed!

Judgment reversed.
Deen, P. J., and Stolz, J., concur.

[fn1] See Wheat v. Fraker, 107 Ga. App. 318 (130 S.E.2d 251), for precedent in writing an opinion in rhyme.

[fn2] I profoundly apologize to Judge Sol Clark, of this court, for invading the field of innovation and departure from normalcy in writing opinions; especially in the copious use of footnotes.

[fn3] This opinion is placed in rhyme because approximately one year ago, in Savannah at a very convivial celebration, the distinguished Judge Dunbar Harrison, Senior Judge of Chatham Superior Courts, arose and addressed those assembled, and demanded that if Judge Randall Evans, Jr. ever again was so presumptuous as to reverse one of his decisions, that the opinion be written in poetry. I readily admit I am unable to comply, because I am not a poet, and the language used, at best, is mere doggerel. I have done my best, but my limited ability just did not permit the writing of a great poem. It was no easy task to write the opinion in rhyme.

[fn4] See Murphy v. State, 132 Ga. App. 654-658 (209 S.E.2d 101), wherein a well-written and well-reasoned opinion discusses the reasons why a denial of motion to continue in a criminal case was erroneous and subject to reversal.

[fn5] See Hobbs v. State, 8 Ga. App. 53, 54 (68 SE 515), where it is demonstrated that a motion to continue in a criminal case must not be judged with the same meticulous severity as in civil cases.

ARGUED April 30, 1975 - DECIDED MAY 9, 1975. Drug violation. Chatham Superior Court. Before Judge Harrison. Robert J. Erb, for appellant. Andrew J. Ryan, Jr., District Attorney, for appellee.

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(c)1968- today j.e. simmons or michael warren