"If you spend any time at all studying the death penalty in America today you eventually come across an immutable truth: No one who digs deeply into these grim cases ever seems to evolve from being a staunch opponent of capital punishment into being a fervent supporter of the practice. The movement, over the past 40 years anyway, has almost always been in the opposite direction: The closer one gets to capital punishment, the more dubious it appears to be."
Andrew Cohen (h/t NACDL)
(Source: letterstomycountry, via crimelaw)
"I think the smarter thing to say is that in many tight, insular communities—where membership is partly based on intelligence, proficiency and being able to speak the language of the discipline—pieces of writing become as much or more about presenting one’s own qualifications for inclusion in the group than transmission of meaning. And that’s how in disciplines like academia—or, I’ve read some really good legal prose, but when it’s really, really horrible (IRS Code stuff)—I think that very often it stems from insecurity and that people feel that unless they can mimic the particular jargon and style of their peers, they won’t be taken seriously and their ideas won’t be taken seriously. It’s a guess."
David Foster Wallace (a personal hero of Portia’s) on In-Group Jargon — that is, writing badly because you want to be part of the exclusive club.
I think Wallace’s guess is absolutely correct. I know that as a rookie lawyer I would often cloud my prose with words I thought were “supposed” to go there — at the expense of clarity and often at the expense of accuracy. It’s an easy, tempting mistake to make when you want to sound like you know what you’re doing, when you desperately want to prove to your reader that you deserve to be there.
This morning I was editing a motion I wrote yesterday — I always try to give myself at least one night to sleep on my work before I file — and I really surprised myself with how unclear I had managed to be. I was so absorbed in including every potential rule, fact and argument that could benefit my case that I lost control of coherency. The motion ended up needing a near-complete organizational overhaul to get it to flow smoothly and accessibly.
As Wallace said in the same interview: “the fact remains, particularly in the professions, that the average person you’re writing for is an acute, sensitive, attentive, sophisticated reader who will appreciate adroitness, precision, economy and clarity.” That has to be our goal, always, as legal writers.
law school is that magical place where people who cast themselves as Hermione their entire lives suddenly end up as Neville Longbottom from the first three books
This is so true.
Passing the Bar and then heading out into an uncertain legal market as a newbie lawyer is like becoming BAMF Neville from Book Seven and then turning into a flobberworm.
Um, this will be me in T-minus one month.
"No, I do not wish you success. I don’t even want to talk about it. I want to talk about failure. Because you are human beings you are going to meet failure. You are going to meet disappointment injustice, betrayal, and irreparable loss. You will find you’re weak where you thought yourself strong. You’ll work for possessions and then find they possess you. You will find yourself-as I know you already have-in dark places, alone, and afraid.
What I hope for you, for all my sisters and daughters, brothers and sons, is that you will be able to live there, in the dark place. To live in the place that our rationalizing culture of success denies, calling it a place of exile, uninhabitable, foreign.
I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country. Why did we look up for blessing-instead of around, or down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourished, where human beings grown human souls."
Ursula K. LeGuin addressing the 1983 graduating class of Mills College in Oakland, California (via wandering-street-radio)
This is the best.
"The president who happens to be in office when [judicial] vacancies arise gets to name qualified replacements, which Obama has done. If Republicans want to appoint more judges, they should win more presidential elections.
The Senate was designed by the Founders to move slowly, not to be paralyzed. Republican obstruction of presidential appointments makes the government less able to do the people’s work — and less reflective of the people’s will. Elections are supposed to have consequences."
— Eugene Robinson: Harry Reid finally says enough to GOP obstruction (via wilwheaton)
I agree with this sentiment for purposes of, um, right now, but look, the chickens will come home to roost. We will have a GOP-controlled executive and legislative branch again, and likely soon. And what shall progressives do in the winds that blow then?
"The thousands of nonviolent crimes that have resulted in LWOP (life without parole) sentences include possession of a crack pipe, a smudge of heroin in a bottle cap, and “a trace amount of cocaine in clothes pockets that was so minute it was invisible to the naked eye and detected only in lab tests,” according to the report. In each case, the defendant had previously been convicted of other crimes — often decades-old and mostly of the non-violent variety."
Defense attorney: Kids being kids
Prosecutor:Aggravated assault w/ deadly weapon to a child, to wit, a vehicle; Aggravated theft, aggravated kidnapping
So true. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said to a prosecutor “this is just kids being kids” and she’s looked at me like I’m from the moon.