Monday, November 07, 2005

Move Toward Plain Language in Canadian Court Decisions

Saturday's Globe and Mail contains an article by Richard Blackwell entitled "Doing the write thing: Judges used to put out decisions that were incomprehensible. Now they are sometimes even eloquent. The writing lessons didn't hurt". [article for subscribers only on the newspaper website]

The article comments on the clarity of the prose in Mr. Justice John Gomery's 1,000-page report on the Liberal sponsorship scandal released last week and in the 1,100-page report Madam Justice Denise Bellamy of the Ontario Superior Court wrote earlier this year on Toronto's computer-leasing scandal.

"The move toward plain language in court judgments has been gaining momentum for a couple of decades. In part, it has been driven by the Supreme Court of Canada, which makes many decisions that have a direct impact on the day-to-day lives of people who have nothing to do with the legal system."

As the article explains, the Supreme Court has been removing Latin words from its rulings and altering the format to make them easier to follow for people reading electronic versions on a website.

The clear language push is also being promoted in Canada by such organizations as the National Judicial Institute and the Montreal-based Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, where new judges have their writing critiqued by English professors.

Mr. Justice John Laskin, an Ontario Court of Appeal judge who helps to organize the Institute's week-long seminar is quoted as saying: "It's a really widespread movement ... Let's face it, it's the bread and butter of what we do. We hear cases and decide them and try to explain them to the parties and the public."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:23 pm


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