Some legal writing should be illegal.
     I never would dream of criticizing the Powers That Be in some New York City state courts, who demand that lawsuits contain no more than one assertion per sentence.
     I don’t have to dream about it; I’ll do it right now.
     Those are stupid rules that make it impossible to write plain English. They make it impossible to tell a story clearly.
     They require lawyers to plead a case like this:
     “1. Mr. X lived in New York City on Date.
     “2. Mr. X stepped on a dead rat in New York City on Date.
     “3. Mr. X fell to the floor in New York City on Date.
     “4. Mr. X was injured in New York City on Date.
     “5. Mr. X was injured by stepping on a dead rat in New York City on Date.
     “6. The dead rat was in the hall of Such and Such Apartment on Date.”
     Writing like that is not the lawyer’s fault. It’s the court’s fault, for its insane rules.
     At the other end of the country, Los Angeles courts seem to have no rules at all. There, attorneys, no doubt at the insistence of their clients, write page after page of bullshit about how famous their clients are.
     My favorite recent Hollywood case was a lawsuit from a pornographer, who sued Chase Bank for not giving him a loan.
     Throughout the complaint, the pornographer’s attorney called him a producer of films “that dealt with the subject of human sexuality.”
     Isn’t that great?
     I understand that attorneys want to present their client in the best light, but come on. A bank robber’s attorney could say his client “dealt with the subject of bank withdrawals through hastily scribbled notes,” but that would not change the facts of the case.
     Surely there is a happy medium somewhere. Perhaps it’s in Iowa. I don’t see many lawsuits from Iowa, though. People and attorneys there seem to have a few particles of brain. Maybe they don’t read the newspapers.
     As editor of Courthouse News’ august page, I see more than 1 million summaries of lawsuits each year, and read, or skim, more than 8,000 of them.
     I counted.
     I do not understand how some lawyers ever got their license.
     Haven’t they heard of spell check?
     Don’t they have any pride in their work?
     This is not an “I hate lawyers” diatribe.
     I like lawyers.
     My best friends are lawyers. I sleep with a lawyer.
     But come on, dudes, at least spell check your lawsuits before you file them.
     I say “come on, dudes,” rather than “come on, dudes and dudettes,” because the worst writing comes from men.
     Is it that women are genetically grammatically superior to men?
     I don’t think so.
     Is it that women attorneys have more pride in their work than the men do?
     Perhaps. But I think it’s just laziness from men who were allowed to slide by for 15 years in school, though girls, and women, are not allowed to do that.
     I edit this page. I am embarrassed every time a typo or grammatical error slips into it.
     I’m not embarrassed by lawsuits about sodomy, police torture, perverted schoolteachers, even Republicans. Hell, no. I like those stories. But I am embarrassed – horrified – if, for instance, I let an “embarassed” onto the page.
     Well, we all have our standards, of sorts. The New York courts have one; the L.A. courts have others, and I, and women lawyers, have still others. Which include spell check.
     It’s easy, guys. It’s up in the Tools bar at the top of the screen. F7.

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