Thursday, September 8, 2011
This post from Legal Research Plus is a great example for students to see the importance of precision and proper grammar in legal writing. Rachel Samberg at Stanford Law School posts this example of a missing comma in a statute that made for a great teaching tool. She used the example to work through legislative history research with her students.
"This past week, I was researching a state statute that, among many other things, imposed conditions on persons who had committed a “felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” At first blush, one would read this to mean that the conditions apply to persons involved in domestic violence felonies and misdemeanors. Get this: That provision actually governs anyone who commits either a “felony” or a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” In other words, we should really be reading a comma into the statute between “felony” and “misdemeanor” where the legislators neglected to put one!"
She also recommends the following article: Prof. Susan J. Hankin’s Statutory Interpretation in the Age of Grammatical Permissiveness: An Object Lesson for Teaching Why Grammar Matters.
Do you use any similar examples or exercises in your class?