Obiter Dicta

In a 2002 dissent, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin declared the majority’s reasoning faulty, but took special issue with its sad and etiolated presentation.

In the case before the bench, a man 30 years older than his teenage fiancé had promised her $3,500 a year if the marriage didn’t last. The marriage didn’t last, and when the ex-fiancé discovered that the stone in her engagement ring was fake, she sued her former husband for fraud. The majority ruled that the woman should not have trusted her fiancé and therefore hadn’t been defrauded.

Eakin disagreed. In fact, he disagreed so strongly that he had no choice but to resort to poetry. His dissent read, in part:

“A groom must expect matrimonial pandemonium

When his spouse finds he’s given her cubic zirconium.

Given their history and Pygmalion relation

I find her reliance was with justification.”

Some of his fellow justices took Eakin to task for this break from decorum, saying that it “reflects poorly on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania” and hurts their reputation when “an opinion of the court is reduced to rhyme.”

Eakin dissented on that too.

“You have an obligation as a judge to be right,” he told the New York Times. “But you have no obligation to be dull.”

Will Stoycos graduated from Country Day in 1981 and he and his wife, Melanie, send their two boys to school here too. Alex is in preschool and his big brother Noah is in third grade.

After graduating, Stoycos went on to study at Wake Forest and earned his J.D. from William & Mary. He has practiced law since the early 90s and now serves as senior deputy in the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Standing on the stage to introduce his friend, Stoycos waxed effusive about Country Day, matter-of-factly declaring that he was “here for one reason: I love this place.

“I sat in the seats where you’re sitting 30 years ago,” he continued. “It is actually kind of scary that the seats haven’t changed.”

Furniture timewarp notwithstanding, Stoycos said that, “Everything [he] accomplished could be traced back to this place and I love the school for what it gave to me.”

In that spirit of giving, Stoycos wrangled Eakin, one of seven justices on the state’s high court, to talk to the Upper School about life, law and the importance of taking chances.

“When I started out as a lawyer, I had no ambition to be a Supreme Court justice, but the opportunity came along,” Eakin said. “If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to take a shot. If something comes up, whether you had it in mind and it was part of the plan or not, take a shot.

“If I tried but didn’t make it, I could feel OK with that,” Eakin continued. “But if I had to look back and think, ‘I could have done that but I was too scared,’ I wouldn’t be OK with that.

“It’s good to have a plan. But being scared is never a reason not to take a chance.”