Legal writing can be dry and characterless, but a moment in state history (such as the disbarment of a county attorney) is occasionally of such gravity that a judge may feel compelled to aim for the rhetorical heights when issuing an opinion that will stand with the force of the law.
The three-member panel that ruled Tuesday against Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon may have showed judicial prudence in their reasoning. Whether they showed literary prudence is a question for additional scrutiny.
The 246-page opinion was written by a panel, including Judge William O'Neil, attorney Mark Sifferman and the Rev. John Hall of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Chandler. There's no way to tell which hot passages came from whose pen - or that of some eager junior legal staff who were raised on a combination of Felix Frankfurter and Danielle Steele -- but whoever these authors were, they seemed to have been writing with one eye aimed at the marble tablets of Maricopa County history.
In places it seems a shame, as the plain facts of this fiasco are appalling enough on their own without the occasionally mock-Shakespearean tone of the authors to help us along. Shakespeare himself does get quoted, as a matter of fact, along with Winston Churchill, the Bible, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and former Vogue editor Diane Vreeland (you have to read it), all set amidst adjective-filled imagery of falling dominoes, misty seashores, failing dikes, brushfires out of control, tragic ambition, duels, rendered garments and one extended conceit of a careening roller coaster that, while wholly unoriginal, certainly kept the pages turning.
While it may be challenging to separate the genuinely august from the grossly orotund, we sorted through the document and ranked the most dramatic passages in the order of their tonal pitch, with additional points awarded for mixed metaphors.