Thursday, June 26, 2008

Legal Writing

I had an opportunity, thanks to Les Thompson and Thompson & DeVeny in Dayton, Ohio, to attend a fascinating CLE titled "What Judges Want." At the conference, a panel of judges walked through the pre-trial, trial and appellate process and explained how judges like to see attorneys present their cases.

One of the judges on the panel was Mark Painter Of the Ohio Court of Appeals for the First District. Judge Painter is the author of "The Legal Writer - 40 Rules for the Art of Legal Writing." His book is a must read for anyone who regularly writes briefs or motions. It details the things that attorneys most often do wrong and tells us how to do them correctly.

You can find Judge Painter, and his book, at

One of the rules is to avoid the use of Latin. I had to laugh when I read it. Recently, I made a motion over in Nashville for temporary child support. Attempting to follow Judge Painter's rule, I styled it as a "Motion for Temporary Child Support." When I arrived at motion day, much to my chagrin, the judge told me that he would grant my motion and sign an order as soon as I presented him one styled "Motion for Pendente Lite Support." In that court, you are required to use the Latin. I recall laughing with the judge, who ran a good court in my opinion, telling him that I decided to try the English version since I found that using the Latin just required me to answer client phone calls and explain what it meant, but he didn't buy it. I am still required to use the Latin.

Perhaps I should send the judge a copy of Judge Painter's book.


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