Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Monday, January 8, 2018

In search of sound "judgement"

Several weeks ago the legal writing professor listserv had a robust discussion over "judgment" v. "judgement."  I smiled at the discussion, having just circled as incorrect several instances of "judgement" in the appellate briefs I was grading. While "judgement" is not technically wrong, as Eugene Volokh points out, "judgment" predominates in American English and, even more so, in American legalese.

Not long after the email exchange, I was reminded of this discussion while driving past a well-known gym franchise.  On the outside of the building, in bright, bold letters, the gym labeled itself the "judgement free zone."  I didn't get a picture (safety first), but below is a picture of the phrase from inside of a building belonging to the same gym franchise.


So how often is "judgement" used in legal writing and opinions?  I did a search of Supreme Court cases and came up with 199 hits on one legal database. In glancing through the results, however, I realized that many of the hits came from the headnotes or summaries, not the text of the opinion. When I narrow it down to just the opinion segment (thanks to the kind research librarians who helped me with the search), I get 67 results. While I didn't review all of the results, my review of about a third of them yielded the following observations:

1) Several of the instances of "judgement" were from quotations of statutes, ordinances, or the opinions of other courts, such as the court below.

2) Several of the instances were from pre-1900 cases.

3) A few of the examples seemed like clear typos--the case was modern and "judgement" was used only once in the case.

With respect to this third bunch, I pulled up the PDFs of the Supreme Court Reporter to see if the error occurred when the case was put on the research database.  In the three cases that I checked, the Supreme Court Reporter PDF contained the word "judgment" not "judgement."  Interesting....

Without passing "judgement" or "judgment" on the gym, the Supreme Court, or the research databases, I plan to stick with "judgment" in my own writing and correct my students' use of the other form.

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