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Hon. Terence T. Evans

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//March 8, 2010//

Hon. Terence T. Evans

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//March 8, 2010//

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The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is well known for the highly individualistic writing styles of some of its judges. Among the most identifiable opinions are those of Terence T. Evans, who is taking senior status this year.

In one well-known opinion, Evans cited the lyrics of a song by the rapper Ludicris to distinguish between a “hoe,” a garden tool, and a “ho,” a staple of rap music vernacular.

Cases involving mobsters frequently include references to movies like “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas”; one involving a “doo-wop” group as a party includes a footnote highlighting classic songs of the genre; and a case involving baseball great George Brett recounts the famous “Pine Tar Incident,” in which he attacked an umpire.

A recent opinion references the HBO show, “The Wire,” to explain the defendant’s use of the term, “re-upping,” to mean not to reenlist in the military, but to restock one’s supply of controlled substances.

Appointed to the court in 1995, his colleague on the bench, Judge Richard A. Posner praises Evans’ style: “He is a great wit, and his judicial opinions, witty and down to earth, sparkle. And they faithfully reflect his personality. He brightens one’s day.”

Evans says he likes to write creatively and to achieve a conversational tone, observing, “Much of what lawyers write is not very interesting.”

Evans has also been a leader in cultivating the legal talent of his clerks. Diane S. Sykes, one of his former clerks, and now a colleague on the same court, says of Evans, “As his law clerk, I learned at the elbow of an exemplary judge and a wonderful person. … I know this is true as well for many others in our legal community. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to serve alongside him on the court and to call him a friend.”

Despite seeking senior status, Judge Evans will not be leaving the legal community. He expects to continue to hear cases full time for at least another year, and then to work part time in the Ninth Circuit, where he has children and grandchildren.

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