What is POFP?

Why do lawyers refer to long documents as briefs and
18-year olds as infants? Why do they use so much Latin when so few of their
clients are Ancient Romans? Is it a conspiracy?

Party of the First Part has the answers! Check out the Website for the
Legalese Hall of Shame; a glossary of legal words linked to Adam Freedman's
columns; tips on writing legal documents in plain English; and more!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Word of the Week

Mischief Rule

A method of interpreting statutes, which involves asking "what was the mischief that this statute was meant to remedy?" The answer to this question will reveal the underlying purpose of the statute, which should guide all interpretation. And besides, inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Word of the Week

A boycott is a concerted effort to refrain from buying from, selling to, or working for, some company or other organization. Some types of boycotts are illegal.

The term entered the language in 1880, thanks to Captain Charles Boycott, who was the estate agent for the Earl Erne in County Mayo, Ireland. The Earl's tenants demanded that Boycott reduce their rents and when he refused -- and began evicting tenants -- everyone in the locality agreed to stop dealing with him. Unable to find workers for the Earl's fields, or tradespeople from whom to purchase necessities, Captain Boycott eventually moved to England to pursue other opportunities, as they say. But his name had already become famous. By November 1880, the Times of London used "boycott" as a verb. The rest is history.

Oh Kannada!

According to OutlookIndia, a legal battle is brewing over the status of the Kannada language of India. Not whether Kannada is an "official" language of India (it already is), but whether Kannada deserves to be recognized as a "classical" language.

A constitutional decree in 2004 created a new category of languages in India -- languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a 'classical language.' Tamil and, a year later, Sanskrit, have been accorded the status. But so far, Kannada has not.

On the off-chance you're not familiar with it, Kannada is one of the major Dravidian languages of India, spoken in the southern state of Karnataka. Karnataka activists have blocked an express train for 20 minutes to agitate for classical status, and they've promised to take the issue up to the Supreme Court if they don't get their way.

So if a group of ancient Romans blocks a train in your neighborhood, don't be alarmed; they're probably just agitating to get more respect for Latin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Calling all Scribes

Last Saturday (August 9) was the annual luncheon for Scribes, the American Society of Legal Writers. This was the first Scribes luncheon I had attended and it was great fun -- an entire roomful of law-and-language nerds! What could be better?

The guest of honor was Justice Antonin Scalia, who received the Scribes Lifetime Achievement Award. Justice Scalia gave a characteristically lively acceptance speech. Both Scalia and Bryan Garner stayed after the lunch to sign copies of the book they've just written together: Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

Also in attendance was the indefatigable Lisa Solomon, whose website, The Billable Hour (www.thebillablehour.com), is a great source for all things legal (including, ahem, my book). And Scribes Executive Director, Joe Kimble, was there with copies of his lucid book, Lifting the Fog of Legalese.

If you want to know more about Scribes, check out their website www.scribes.org.

Word of the Week


Robbery is a theft committed in the presence of the victim -- a hold up. As the legal lexicographer John Cowell wrote in 1607:

Robberie commeth from the French, and in our common lawe [signifies] a
felonious taking away of another mans goods from his person or presence, against
his will, putting him in feare, and of purpose to steal the same goods

Highway robbery was, at first, not a metaphor, but a technical offense -- a robbery committed on the King's highway, and it carried a heavier sentence.