Friday, July 19, 2013

Judge Wald advises lawyers to write clearly

The Indiana Law Review recently published Judge Patricia Wald’s address at Indiana University’s Wald2012 commencement. Judge Wald, who sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, advised the graduates, “Whatever you do, learn to write well--succinctly, clearly, and persuasively.”

Lawyers write the words that compose the laws that flood our courts with issues of interpretation and proper construction. We are told to hold with the “plain meaning” or “plain language” of the statutes, but in too many cases the meaning and the language are far from plain; the syntax is convoluted, surplusage and redundancy abound, participles dangle, and pronouns twist aimlessly in windy speech. . . . The best language conveys ideas clearly and completely. The road to legal limbo is paved with good intentions, sloppily articulated.


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