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No doubt the legal community was shocked — shocked! — to learn a “snitch bitch hoe” is not a garden tool with loose lips, as a federal appeals court recently took pains to explain. The phrase appeared in a May 4 opinion by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case United States v. Murphy, 04-2032. Darron Murphy Sr. was appealing his conviction for tampering with a witness, Pamela Hayden, who he said testified against Murphy’s son in a separate case. Cue footnote: “The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch ‘hoe.’ A ‘hoe,’ of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. … We have taken the liberty of changing ‘hoe’ to ‘ho,’ a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps, ‘You doin’ ho activities with ho tendencies.’” Attorneys from Pennsylvania to Silicon Valley are having fun with what is roundly estimated to be the work of a law clerk who, presumably, was feelin’ Ludacris on this one. On May 16, there were 367 Yahoo hits for “snitch bitch hoe.” On May 18, there were 424. On his blog, LearningToLoveTheLaw, “PhiladelphiaLawyer” reported the 7th Circuit’s Web site may have crashed by “being constantly pinged by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of bored lawyers” checking to see if the footnote was real. On The American Prospect staffer Matthew Yglesias’ blog, a comment from someone posting as “rea” begged for perspective: “Wouldn’t it be a bitch, though, to be in prison on a 20-year sentence, and to discover that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals thinks your case is funny?”

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