The Butler Did It


I like authors like John LeCarre who let you figure out what happened instead of telling you what happened.  It is even more delicious when it takes a while to figure it out.  My twelve year old had to tell me what the clue was about Robin in the Dark Knight Batman movie.  I missed it entirely.

I like to think judges are the same as I am.  They don’t want to be told what to think in a pleading or an argument.  They want to form their own opinions.  So when I write a pleading, I try to lead, but not push, the judge to the conclusion I want.

I read that Hemingway was sparse with adjectives.  Yesterday I reviewed a divorce pleading that said our client married her spouse in perfectly good fath.  I deleted “perfectly”.  What is the difference between marrying in good faith and perfectly good faith?

Sometimes there is a reason for an adjective in the law.  Indefinite alimony can be granted in Maryland when the spouses have “unconscionably” disparate incomes.  I understand that means there has to be a big difference, not just a little difference.

Some adjectives are harder to grasp.  Cases can be reversed on appeal when the trial judge is “clearly” erroneous.  Why can’t the judge be reversed just for making an error?  If the error is not clear, does that mean the appeals court can’t tell if an error has been made or not?

So I say write with as few adjectives as possible and let the judge decide on his or her own whether something is patently false, obviously wrong, or woefully inadequate.