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Judges Urge Texas Lawyers to File Briefs in Plain English

March 19, 1991

DALLAS (AP) _ There’s a simple way for lawyers to please the court: File briefs in plain English.

Most judges in Texas think lawyers use too much legalese, says the State Bar of Texas.

Its remedy is the ″Plain-Language Committee,″ which will redraft state legal forms used by consumers, produce a 10-point ″plain language charter,″ sponsor programs that teach lawyers to write better and present ″legaldegook awards.″

″Legalese is using unnecessary terms that are nothing more than bloated, pompous expressions with no meaning,″ said Bryan Garner, who heads the committee and teaches principles of legal writing at Southern Methodist University.

Garner gave an example of the mumbo-jumbo he said is widespread:

″Now comes the above named John Smith, plaintiff herein, by and through Darrow & Holmes, his attorneys of record, and shows unto this Honorable Court as follows ... ″

In plainer language, he said that could be shortened to, ″For his complaint, the plaintiff shows ... ″

The State Bar said it recently sent surveys to 500 district and appellate judges across the state, of which more than half responded.

Given several examples of issues expressed in legalese and in ″plain English,″ 80 percent favored the simpler version, Garner said. Half of the briefs presented to judges are poorly written, making it difficult to understand the lawyer’s case, he said.

Lawyers, Garner said, often write thoughtlessly and string together meaningless ideas because it is a tradition that has been passed on for generations.

Teresa LeClercq, a writing specialist at the University of Texas law school, said law students believe legalese ″is the language of the legal brotherhood and a passport to the legal world.″

Lawyers know that certain legal language already has been litigated, and it stands as law today, so judges usually don’t question it, she said.

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