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Judge's prose worthy of spectacular case

Washington Post editors

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick B. Garland reportedly narrowly missed a nomination to the Supreme Court earlier this year.

But the loss to readers of the high court's weighty, sometimes stolid opinions just may be beginning to be felt, judging from his latest ruling from his post on the D.C. Circuit bench.

The judge, ruling in the spectacular case of the Sigmund family -- the son who tried to kill his father by putting a bomb in his SUV in a garage in Friendship Heights in 2002 -- pulled out all the stops to start his prose:

"GARLAND, Circuit Judge: Solon, the ancient Athenian lawgiver, made no law against patricide because he thought it impossible that anyone could commit so unnatural a crime. Two and a half millennia later, Freud famously claimed the opposite -- that every son harbors murderous impulses toward his father. In this case, we side with the lawyer not the psychoanalyst. Donald Sigmund, the accidental victim of a car bomb that his half-brother intended for their father, cannot recover from the third-party defendants he has sued unless his half-brother’s crime was foreseeable. We conclude that neither that crime nor any similar one was foreseeable, and thus affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants."

With apologies to new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- President Obama's pick earlier this year and no writing slouch herself -- Garland's breezily apt wordplay involving the family surname was an attention-grabbing start to an opinion that concluded the owners of the garage at 5225 Wisconsin Ave. NW are not liable for failing to repair a security gate.

They couldn't have anticipated the pipe-bombing attempt by Prescott Sigmund, 42, who now is serving a lengthy prison sentence in a medium-security federal prison in West Virginia.

Donald Wright Sigmund, Prescott's half-brother, was horribly injured when he borrowed his father's SUV to deliver an icemaker to his father's new house and the bomb exploded. He had tried to sue the garage owners.

The men's father and the intended bombing victim, also named Donald, a Washington insurance executive, remarried his former wife, Debbie, in 2008.

In newspaper terms, Judge Garland earns a spot on the short-list for nice leads.

-- Spencer S. Hsu

By Washington Post editors  |  August 17, 2010; 2:08 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Spencer S. Hsu  
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Comments

Greedy shyster cowards will sue anyone, as long as they have money.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 17, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

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