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He’s at it again. For the fourth time as a jurist, and the first time as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, J. Michael Eakin has written an opinion in verse. Only this time, according to some of Eakin’s colleagues on the high court bench, he’s gone too far. In a concurring opinion in Porreco v. Porreco, Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala expressed his “grave concern that the filing of an opinion that expresses itself in rhyme reflects poorly on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.” “I believe the integrity of this institution depends in great part upon the understanding that we engage in careful, deliberate and serious analysis of the legal issues that we undertake to examine,” Zappala said. “The integrity of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania should never be placed in jeopardy by actions that would alter the perception of those whose lives and interests are affected by the decisions of the court. “It is of little import whether the issue before the court involves the decision to impose the death penalty on an individual, the economic interests of individuals or businesses, or the effect of divorce actions in Pennsylvania. Each issue addressed by this court commands our thorough, weighty consideration,” he said. In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Ralph J. Cappy echoed Zappala’s sentiments. “My concern … lies with the perception that litigants and the public at large might form when an opinion of this court is reduced to rhyme.” When called Monday for a response to the concurring opinions, Eakin said he did not think it was appropriate to comment. However, in May 2001, Eakin told The Legal Intelligencer he believed his lyrical judgments served a purpose. “I think the law ought to be more accessible, not only so people can find it, but that they have an interest in finding it,” Eakin said. “I’ve had so many people say after they’ve read [an opinion in verse] that it’s nice to see judges don’t go around with their noses up in the air.” Zappala’s, Cappy’s and Eakin’s opinions were three of five opinions filed in the Porreco case, in which the high court was asked to decide whether a prenuptial agreement is voidable when the husband misstated in a financial statement the value of his wife’s engagement ring. Even though the misstatement made by Louis Porreco resulted in the incorrect valuation of his wife’s assets, the lead opinion, written by Justice Sandra Schultz Newman, concluded that Susan Porreco did not justifiably rely on Louis’ valuation, and therefore Susan could not claim fraud. Zappala, Cappy and Justice Ronald D. Castille concurred in the result. Justice Thomas Saylor, joined by Justice Russell Nigro, dissented. Eakin wrote a separate dissent. According to the opinion, Louis, 45 and previously married, and Susan, 17, in high school and living with her parents, began dating. Two years later they were married. During their courtship, Louis provided Susan with an apartment, an automobile, insurance, a weekly allowance, access to one of his credit cards and a gas charge account. When the two became engaged, Louis gave Susan a ring, which turned out to be cubic zirconium instead of diamond. According to the opinion, Susan testified that she did not discover that the ring was a fake until after the parties separated, more than 10 years after they got engaged. Prior to giving her the engagement ring, Louis had given Susan other jewelry that contained genuine stones, with a total appraised value of $32,500, the opinion said. During the marriage, Louis gave Susan an additional $50,000 worth of jewelry, according to the court. Before they got married, Louis presented Susan with a prenuptial agreement which provided that, in the event of a divorce, Susan would receive $3,500 for each year of marriage in lieu of alimony and spousal support, an automobile, and health insurance for one year. In all other respects, the agreement provided that the parties would retain their separate property, the court said. The final version of the agreement contained a personal financial statement prepared by Louis that listed Susan’s assets with a total value of $46,592, including an entry for the engagement ring, valued at $21,000. Louis’ personal financial statement listed his net worth at $3.3 million. An attorney reviewed the agreement for Susan, although he did not conduct any negotiations for her, the court said. When the parties separated more than 10 years later, Susan took the ring to a jeweler, who informed her that it was not a diamond. As part of the divorce proceedings, Susan petitioned to set aside the prenuptial agreement, claiming Louis fraudulently induced her to sign the agreement by misrepresenting the value of the ring. Susan also claimed Louis breached a confidential relationship with her and that Louis violated his duty of full and fair disclosure. The trial court invalidated the prenuptial agreement and the Superior Court affirmed, addressing only the question of whether Louis fraudulently induced Susan to sign the prenuptial agreement. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed, finding Susan’s alleged reliance on Louis’ misrepresentation of the value of the ring on the schedule of assets was not justifiable. In order to void a contract due to fraudulent misrepresentation, the party alleging fraud must prove: � A representation; � which is material to the transaction at hand; � made falsely, with knowledge of its falsity or recklessness as to whether it is true or false; � with the intent of misleading another into relying on it; � justifiable reliance on the misrepresentation; and � resulting injury proximately caused by the reliance. The court found Susan’s claim fell short because her reliance on Louis’ misrepresentation was not justifiable. “To be justifiable, reliance upon the representation of another must be reasonable,” Newman wrote. “While the nature of the relationship between the parties may affect the reasonableness of one’s reliance, we hesitate to find reliance justified where the party claiming reliance had an adequate opportunity to verify the allegedly fraudulent statements.” The court noted that Susan had possession of the ring at all times and “was not impeded from doing what she ultimately did when the parties separated: obtain an appraisal of the ring.” “She had sufficient opportunity to inform herself fully of the nature and extent of her own assets, rather than rely on Louis’ statements concerning the valuation of her holdings,” Newman wrote. “We find her failure to do this simple investigation to be unreasonable.” The court reversed and remanded to the Superior Court so that the intermediate appeals court could review the trial court’s decision that a confidential relationship existed between the parties and that Louis breached that confidential relationship. In his dissent, Saylor said he would not impose upon Susan a duty to investigate. “Here, taking into consideration that the parties did not deal at arm’s length, their age and experience disparity, the absence of any evidence indicating that [Susan] failed to act in good faith, the fact that the financial disclosure listing the value of the engagement ring occurred immediately before [Susan] was to sign the prenuptial agreement, and the fact that [Louis] had given [Susan] numerous items of genuine jewelry prior to the engagement ring … I would hold that the trial court did not err in concluding that [Susan's] reliance upon the intentional misrepresentation by [Louis] was justified.” While he wrote separately so as to express his sentiments in rhyme, Eakin appeared to agree with Saylor’s dissent. “Given their history and Pygmalion relation,/ I find her reliance was with justification./ Given his accomplishment and given her youth,/ was it unjustifiable for her to think he told the truth? “Or for every prenuptial, is it now a must/ that you treat your betrothed with presumptive mistrust?/ Do we mean reliance on your beloved’s representation/ is not justifiable, absent third party verification? “Love, not suspicion, is the underlying foundation/ of parties entering the marital relation;/ mistrust is not required, and should not be made a priority./ Accordingly, I must depart from the reasoning of the majority.”

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