01 August 2009

One For the Lawyers...

A lawyer, instead of saying that two plus two make four, would say:

"If by that particular arithmetical rule known as addition, we desired to arrive at the sum of two integers added to two integers, we should find - and I assert this boldly, ans without fear of successful contradiction - we, I repeat, should find by the particular arithmetical formula before mentioned - and I hold myself perfectly responsible for the assertion that I am about to make - we should find that the sum of the two integers added to the two other integers would be four."

from Jokes, Quotes, and One Liners - Volume 2 by Herbert V Prochnow and Herbert V Prochnow Jr.


lawby said...

Which are the worst in this regard? Indonesian or Australian lawyers?

Rob Baiton said...


Lawyers are lawyers no matter where they originate from.

I spent many (and I mean many) hours editing legal documents into plain language while living in Indonesia.

I just do not think it is a case of who is worse or better. Some people learn and some people will never learn.

I have had lots of heated discussions about whether a plain language contract is "legal" without the legalese.

Maybe some of your acquaintances have had the pleasure of taking one of my legal writing classes :D

lawby said...

Did the legalese come from the Dutch? I would think the "form" of a written contract is something that is not so easily dismissed/changed.

One day I was intending to ask you where you learned your considerable English writing skills - were you born with them or did you learn them at school or university? I did some literature subjects at Uni but received very little help in writing. I did a writing course as well and struggled every week to keep up. I am interested in teaching writing and am interested that you were an instructor in your time here. I have students at the moment who write and speak very well, on legal matters; and many of them have gained their skills from such diverse places as Nintendo legal games and American TV shows..

lawby said...

I still find it hard to accept that Prita was "acquited" by the District court, in the sense that the relevant law was applied to her sitation and the facts were deemed insufficient; and hence as a result the prosecution in a sense "appealed" her acquital.

The reason I plug on with this is that in teaching one has to be clear: sometimes the writing of legal experts assumes a lot. I would say that at an introductory level there is a dearth of good legal textbooks and dictionaries.

Rob Baiton said...


Some of it does, but I was thinking, and I guess referring to more general patterns of legal language that includes words / phrases like hereinafter to referred to as; aforementioned, contiguous, whereas (legal form not literary), a whole range of doublets and triplets, and numbers followed by bracketed numerical representations, to name but a few.

Maybe the basic form of a contract or agreement cannot be changed. However, this does not mean that the language used cannot be plain.

I would like to say that I was born with them and developed them over time. However, I am not sure that my skills set is that crash hot :D

The developed over time must be read as being the idea of reading, learning, practicing, and then doing the whole thing over again. There are plenty of good books out there to help. Bryan Garner and the "Red Book" for one are excellent.

This really isn't a Prita post. But, I will answer the question all the same.

Prita was the beneficiary of a provisional acquittal. The sense here being it is not a "true" acquittal as you refer to it until it is final. The Tangerang District Court is a Court of First Instance. This means that decisions of this court are subject to appeal under certain conditions.

One of these conditions is that the court of first instance erred (that is they were wrong in their application or interpretation of the prevailing law). The Banten High Court held that the Tangerang District Court was indeed wrong in the manner it decided the case.

There are primarily two grounds; the application of the ITE Law was wrong and there was no real explanation of the criminal code defamation provisions.

No, the prosecution was not appealing the acquittal. The prosecution was appealing the manner in which the court reached its decision. Maybe this is splitting hairs and legal speak to most.

Once again, what is, or now was, being appealed here was the legal reasoning of the court that led to the acquittal.

I would argue that the court did not hold that the facts were insufficient. In fact, the court did not need to worry itself with hearing the facts because it dismissed the case based on the statement that the applicable law was not in fact applicable at the time. According to the Tangerang District Court the ITE Law does not come into force until April (?) 2010.

I am not sure that my writing on this case has presumed any real legal knowledge on the part of the readers.

I have discussed the reasons why the prosecutors 'had' to appeal the Tangerang District Court decision. I also explained why I thought the outcome would be that the High Court would overturn the decision.

Maybe there is a dearth of good introductory textbooks, but I have no inclination, at the moment at least, to write one. On the dictionary front. There are stacks upon stacks of dictionaries that one can use. You just have to find the one(s) that suit your needs.

At last count, I think I have close to fifty different dictionaries on all manner of topics legal and general. This includes medical dictionaries as well, as you never know when you might have a case that will require knowledge of medical terms.

Enjoy your Sunday.

lawby said...

Thanks. So endeth Saturday, all resolved, so far.


I hope you get some more commentators - I hope Im not putting them off by highjacking your comments box.

I can be more controversial; but often your writing leaves litte room for such

Rob Baiton said...


And thus beginneth Sunday.

Look, if people want to comment, then they will comment. If they do not, then they won't. Fairly simple proposition really.

It is not always about controversy. However, my writing aside, if you think you can spice things up with a little more controversy, then feel free to give it a try :D

Comments are always appreciated even if they are only form one source with multiple personalities ;)

lawby said...

Not being a blogger, but someone with MCS (multiple commentary syndrome), I do wonder what it is like to be a bloggger and to not receive many comments...

Can you find out how many read you and not comment for example? The only reason I ask this is that nearly every blogger at some time remarks about trying to increase their readership/commentship - so I guess it is not pleasant to be uncommented upon?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Ah, I wrote a (bitchin') post about this exact matter in my blog a few days ago.

Rob Baiton said...


I think that I have generally said that I write in this blog primarily to amuse myself, and if I amuse others along the way then that is just icing on the cake.

I don't know that I do things to increase my readership or the number of people leaving comments. That said, it is nice to be read and comments are always appreciated.

I tend to have more fun working with ideas to boost visitor statistics. This is not necessarily readers or commenters. The potential is there for both though. Visitor stats are really just about who passes by in the click sense.

So, I play around with tags and post suggest words here and there that may or may not be relevant to the post at hand.


Really? :D