Judge Posner Wishes Courts Would Stop Using Legal Jargon

In his concurrence on a criminal justice opinion, the ever-irascible Judge Richard Posner takes aim at many phrases that most judges (and lawyers) love. He was perfectly happy with the outcome of the case, which upheld a drug sales conviction. He’s just mad about how the majority opinion was written.

“I disagree merely with the rhetorical envelope in which so many judicial decisions are delivered to the reader,” he writes.

Among the phrases Posner slams:

• “Great deference.” Why give “great deference” to probable cause determinations by magistrates who are “certain or almost” certain to approve them?

• “Actual guilt” and “actual innocence.” Why not use the simpler terms “innocence” and “guilt”?

• The “heavy, nearly insurmountable burden” of proof for defendants challenging the sufficiency of evidence. The phrase appears to be “hyperbole,” and why should the defendant have this high burden?

We Don’t Know Much at All about How the Criminal Justice System Operates

Over at the Marshall Project, there is a piece that highlights just how little data we have about policing. The White House set up a police data initiative, but it is voluntary, and participation has been less than spectacular, to say the least.

Of nearly 18,000 police agencies from coast to coast, just 53 had signed on to the effort. Of that inaugural class, eight released data on officer-involved shootings, and six published information on their officers’ use of force.

Because the data gathering is so poor, there are huge categories of things about which we know nearly nothing, including:

  • How many juvenile offenders graduate to become adult offenders
  • How many shootings there are in America
  • How many police are investigated or prosecuted for misconduct
  • How often police stop pedestrians or motorists
  • How many corrections officers are disciplined or prosecuted for abusing prisoners
  • How many criminal cases are referred to prosecutors and how they decide which to pursue

There Are an Awful Lot of Companies in the Legal Tech Field Now

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of legal tech companies, Stanford has got you covered. Apparently there are now 539 (!) companies in the field. The list is divided into eight categories, including document automation, practice management, and analytics.

Top Rates for BigLaw are Now an Absurd $2,000/Hour

Yes, $2,000 per hour. You read that right. In-house counsel will pay twenty Benjamins per hour to external law firm attorneys when they face “bet-the-company IP work, enterprise level M&A litigation, large-scale government investigation, and defense against high-profile activist hedge funds.”

New Jersey Says Lawyers Are Mis-Using the Term ‘Super Lawyers’ in Advertising

It may seem at times that everyone is able to call themselves a Super Lawyer or a Rising Star, without any real context as to what that means. The New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Lawyer Advertising is not terribly fond of that and issued a reminder as to what additional information needs to be included if a lawyer chooses to use those terms when advertising their services.

Lawyers may refer to such honors in their advertising “only when the basis for comparison can be verified” and the group bestowing the accolade “has made adequate inquiry into the fitness of the individual lawyer.” […]

The inquiry into fitness has to be more rigorous than a simple tally of years in practice and lack of disciplinary history, according to the committee. Honors that don’t involve a bona fide fitness inquiry include popularity contests that tally votes by telephone, text or email.

When an award meets this preliminary test, lawyers who want to use it must provide a description of the award methodology, either in the advertising or by reference to a “convenient, publicly available source,” the notice says.

Bottom line: at least in New Jersey, if the sole grounds for your Super status is that a lot of your friends voted for you, it does not meet the test that would allow you to use it in your advertising.

One response to “Briefs: Posner Gets Mad at Legal Jargon, BigLaw Rates Hit $2,000/Hour, Etc.”

  1. Malby says:

    Posner is right.

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