Court served up some ‘Green Eggs and Ham’
by John Cline
March 01, 2014 10:00 PM | 2219 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On this date in the year 1904, Theodor and Henrietta Geisel, German immigrants living in Springfield, Mass., welcomed their second child, a boy they named Ted. After enjoying a happy childhood in Springfield with his older sister, Marnie, Ted left his hometown as a teenager to study at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Instead of becoming a college professor as his father had hoped, young Ted chose to pursue a career as a cartoonist, poet and author. Later, Ted Geisel would become nothing less than an American icon under his familiar pen-name: Dr. Seuss.

In his illustrious career, Dr. Seuss published 46 children’s books, including such classics as “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears a Who!” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

Generations of American children have been inspired to think creatively by Dr. Seuss’ works, which typically feature highly imaginative characters, whimsical illustrations, and simple, often-rhyming words.

Dr. Seuss died in 1991 at the age of 87, but his work remains wildly popular today. In recognition of his contributions to children’s literature, Dr. Seuss’ birthday has been adopted by the National Education Association as the National Read Across America Day, when children in all communities are encouraged to celebrate reading.

Although his books were written primarily for children, Dr. Seuss has for decades been an inspiration to grown-ups as well. At the end of each school year, for example, the Dr. Seuss title “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” has become a popular gift for high school graduates. In music, the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded a Seuss-inspired song called “Yertel the Turtle” for their 1985 album, Freaky Styley. In live theater, the musical “Seussical” has had runs both on Broadway and in London’s West End in recent years, and the show remains popular among high school drama clubs and other local theater groups.

Surprisingly, the influence of Dr. Seuss can even be seen from time to time in the halls of justice and in the law schools, which are generally considered to be places much too staid and stodgy to engage in Seussian silliness.

In 1999, for example, Associate Justice Alan Page of the Supreme Court of Minnesota noted in the case of Koehnen vs. Dufuor that “a person is a person (no matter how small).” As authority for this high-minded legal proposition, Justice Page cited the 1954 Dr. Seuss classic “Horton Hears a Who!”

A law school in New York recently hosted a symposium titled “Exploring Civil Society through the Writings of Dr. Seuss.” The program featured scholars expounding on legal themes found in books penned by Seuss. For instance, one panel featured prominent law professors discussing civil rights, fairness and equality in “The Sneetches,” while another panel discussed use of force issues in “The Butter Battle Book.” A third addressed property rights and land use issues in “The Lorax.”

Perhaps the greatest example of Seuss-inspired judicial fun came in a 2007 case from New Hampshire. Charles Jay Wolff, an inmate in a New Hampshire prison, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking the court to order the kitchen staff at the prison to stop including boiled eggs in the sack lunches provided to inmates.

Mr. Wolff complained that he did not find boiled eggs pleasing to his palate. Along with his documents, Mr. Wolff sent a hard-boiled egg to the Court as an exhibit. In response, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Muirhead, who had a well-established reputation as a somber and serious-minded judge, paid homage to one of Dr. Seuss’s greatest works, “Green Eggs and Ham,” in ordering the destruction of the egg.

Judge Muirhead’s Order concluded, quite ingeniously:

“No fan I am

Of the egg at hand.

Just like no ham

On the kosher plan.

This egg will rot

I kid you not.

And stink it can

This egg at hand.

There will be no eggs at court

To prove a clog in your aort.

There will be no eggs accepted.

Objections all will be rejected.

From this day forth

This court will ban

hard-boiled eggs of any brand.

And if you should not understand

The meaning of the ban at hand

Then you should contact either Dan,

the Deputy Clerk, or my clerk Jan.

I do not like eggs in the file.

I do not like them in any style.

I will not take them fried or boiled.

I will not take them poached or broiled.

I will not take them soft or scrambled

Despite an argument well-rambled.

No fan I am

Of the egg at hand.

Destroy that egg!

Today! Today!

Today I say! Without delay!

SO ORDERED (with apologies to Dr. Seuss).”

John Cline serves as the Associate Judge of the Probate Court of Cherokee County. A native of Waleska, he resides in Canton with his wife, Millie, and two daughters, who are sometimes lovingly referred to as Thing 1 and Thing 2. He is a graduate of the University Of Georgia School Of Law and an enthusiast of all things Seuss.

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