U.S. Supreme Court justices on legal writing
I saw a brief reference to this recently – it was in the WSJ blog, headed Supreme Court Justices on Writing: Say it Simply.
But after skimming it and reading this, I gave up:
Chief Justice John Roberts prefers the use of “that” over “which,” feeling that the latter term “slows you down.” He says: “That just seems to have a better pace to it.”
Justice Antonin Scalia offers a useful tip for knowing whether your are using silly legalese. “If you used the word at a cocktail party, would people look at you funny? You talk about ‘the instant case’ or ‘the instant problem.’ That’s ridiculous,” Scalia told Garner.
Justice Kennedy doesn’t like briefs that turn nouns into verbs: “I ‘task’ you or I was ‘tasked’ with this assignment.”
Is that all they have to say for themselves, I wondered. I overlooked the 194-page PDF file I now find via Mark Liberman’s post on Language Log, The snoot and the Geechee.
Mark hasn’t had time to read the interviews either, but he quotes an article by Nina Totenberg. The interviews can be heard at LawProse.
ObiterJ blog: Explaining our law and legal system
The ObiterJ blog has published three short entries, and I think will be publishing more, on the English legal system. They are very informative and useful. They are on Legal Personnel, Courts of Law and Tribunals, and The Judges.
At the moment I haven’t found time to continue my own introduction to English law for translators. I was thinking of turning to the courts, which is a very useful topic but somewhat huge, depending on the detail one goes into. A change I was interested in was the tribunal system, which has changed (see the ObiterJ entry). I had missed the fact that I am no longer a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, but a Solicitor of the Sernior Courts of England and Wales. (Still wondering if the meaning of Supreme Court has now changed, or if there are simply two – the earlier Supreme Court of England and Wales (not the UK) was a collective term for several courts, excluding the House of Lords).
The source of this recommendation was the UK Human Rights Blog, which gives other links and is always a good read.