Thu 22 Sep 2016

The Courts, Plain English, and Smileys ☺

Judgments from Court are more frequently known for being long, verbose and using complicated legalese, than for using emojis (that's little smiley faces like this ☺ ).

Law students and lawyers get used to slogging through pages and pages of cases, in order to tease out the nuances and legal rationale behind the decision.   As a law student I remember the judgments from Lord Denning as being a bit of light relief from the usual jargon - he had a gift for particularly vivid imagery (as well as having a tendency for trying to completely rewrite the law whenever it suited him).

But my new favourite judge for case reports is now Justice Peter Jackson, who has just published a judgment written in short sentences, plain English and with (shock, horror)  a smiley face emoji. The report hasn’t been written this way on a whim. Instead, the judgment has been deliberately written in an accessible way so that the mother and two older children involved in the case can read and understand the decision for themselves.

What a wonderful idea.  Why doesn't it happen more?

Sometimes there is a need for big words.     Sometimes, complex legal ideas can - still - best be expressed by way of Latin maxim (off-putting though it is for those of us whose linguistic knowledge extends only to "bonjour").  But sometimes, judges (and all lawyers) can best do their job by expressing complex ideas in a short and simple way.

Frankly, I think it would be a wonderful thing there were more of these ☺ and quite a bit less Latin in our legal reading.

If you are interested (and it's not as long a read as normal links I put in blogs like this!) the judgement is here:

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