(Reuters) - A Chicago judge is under fire for making his rulings look a bit like a graphic novel, using pictures of reggae icon Bob Marley, lions, ostriches and other images to underscore his opinions.
Judge Richard Posner’s tendency to use pictures — often taken from the web — to spice up his rulings is a rarity in a legal world where staid, dry documents are customary, and sometimes a matter of pride.
Posner, a judge in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, used the photo of Marley with his matted, foot-long braids flying in every direction in a case examining the right of a prisoner with dreadlocks to refuse a haircut on religious grounds.
In another case, Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co, Posner embedded an image of an ostrich with its head in the sand next to an image of a man in a suit on his knees, his head also buried under sand.
The intent? To reprimand the plaintiffs’ lawyer for ignoring a precedent.
Pleasing to some who delight in the unorthodox presentation, the images have ruffled feathers of others. David “Mac” McKeand, the plaintiffs’ lawyer who was the object of Posner’s ostrich-photo-jab, was so offended by the image he submitted a grievance with the 7th Circuit.
“If the judge can bully plaintiffs’ lawyers, he’s going to do that to protect American corporations,” said McKeand, whose grievance was dismissed.
Posner said it was the first negative feedback he’d received for an image. “I’m sorry he was upset by it,” he said.
Posner also defended his use of artistic license, saying photos embedded in his opinions “couldn’t conceivably be hurting the copyright holder.”
Copyright lawyer David Donahue of the intellectual property firm Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu agreed with Posner’s analysis.
Still, David Corio, the British photographer who took the picture of Marley, the late singer, said he was surprised to see it in a judicial opinion without any credit or attribution.
“I would have a thought a judge of all people would be decent enough to ask permission before using an image,” Corio told Reuters on Friday.
So far, no one has objected to one of Posner’s earliest forays into photo-enhancing in 2007: the photo of Kwanzaa, a lion at a Texas zoo, celebrating its birthday with a cake made from 10 pounds of horsemeat topped with whipped cream and a carrot.
The point there — it would seem — was to underscore that zoos feed their animals a considerable amount of horsemeat in a dispute over banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
Reporting By Terry Baynes; editing by Barbara Goldberg and Paul Thomasch