An Ohio judge has elicited chuckles for a poem he wrote to shoot down an inmate’s lawsuit this week. The inmate, Darek Lathan, sued after guards at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient refused to let him go to the bathroom, causing him to have diarrhea in his pants.
Lathan is serving a 17-month sentence for a vandalism conviction. In his lawsuit seeking $2 million in damages, Lathan said the officer wouldn’t let him get out of line to go to the bathroom, even after he told the guard the prison’s cold showers were making him sick.
Lathan has no attorney and filed the lawsuit on his own. He wrote that he suffered “harassment, embarrassment, riddiculing (sic) and emotional distress” when other inmates mocked him after he soiled himself.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David E. Cain decided this claim was frivolous, and that it had been filed in the wrong court. But he went beyond simply rejecting Lathan’s lawsuit. Instead, the 72-year-old judge responded with the following poem:
Cold showers caused his bowels to malfunction
Or so the plaintiff claims
A strict uncaring prison guard
Is whom the plaintiff blames.
While in line for recreation
And little time for hesitation
His anal sphincter just exploded
The plaintiff’s britches quickly loaded.
It made the inmates laugh and play
To see the plaintiff’s pants this way
The foul, unsightly, putrid mess
Caused the plaintiff major stress.
Claiming loss and shame to boot
The plaintiff filed the present suit
But the law provideth no relief
From such unmitigated grief.
Neither runs nor constipation
Can justify this litigation
Whether bowels constrict or flex
De minimus non curat lex. [The law takes no account of trifles.]
“You know, if he is going to file something that frivolous, he can’t expect me to be too judicious in how I respond. He can’t expect me to take it seriously,” the judge told the Columbus Dispatch.
“We have to have some fun every once in a while in this job,” he added.
Ohio’s prison conditions are among the worst in the country, prompting some attempts at sentencing reform in recent years. Yet low-level offenders like Lathan are still subjected to abuse even for brief stays in the system. Ohio prison guards have been accused of raping and beating inmates and covering up for each other.
A thousand inmates at one Ohio facility dumped their lunch trays in protest of maggot infestations, food shortages, and bouts of food poisoning that have become routine. Other inmates were forced to endure 100-degree heat in their cells because of a deal with an electricity company.
Cain, a 30-year veteran of the court who was most recently re-elected in 2012, noted that he’s only three years away from the age cap that will prevent him from seeking re-election. “If there’s anything I want to do, I better get about doing it,” he told the Dispatch. “I just wanted to have some fun.”