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Full-Text Articles in Law

The Meaning Of Sex: Dynamic Words, Novel Applications, And Original Public Meaning, William N. Eskridge Jr., Brian G. Slocum, Stefan Th. Gries May 2021

The Meaning Of Sex: Dynamic Words, Novel Applications, And Original Public Meaning, William N. Eskridge Jr., Brian G. Slocum, Stefan Th. Gries

Michigan Law Review

The meaning of sex matters. The interpretive methodology by which the meaning of sex is determined matters Both of these were at issue in the Supreme Court’s recent landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, where the Court held that Title VII protects lesbians, gay men, transgender persons, and other sexual and gender minorities against workplace discrimination. Despite unanimously agreeing that Title VII should be interpreted in accordance with its original public meaning in 1964, the opinions in Bostock failed to properly define sex or offer a coherent theory of how long-standing statutes like Title VII should be interpreted over …


Natural Language Processing For Lawyers And Judges, Frank Fagan Apr 2021

Natural Language Processing For Lawyers And Judges, Frank Fagan

Michigan Law Review

A Review of Law as Data: Computation, Text, & the Future of Legal Analysis. Edited by Michael A. Livermore and Daniel N. Rockmore.


Numbers, Patrick Barry Nov 2020

Numbers, Patrick Barry

Articles

Numbers can be numbing. Depend too much on them to make your case, pitch your product, or tell your story, and you risk losing your audience. This essay offers a way to way to use numbers—both large and small—in a manner that is at once more compelling and more concrete.


Errors And Insights, Patrick Barry Oct 2020

Errors And Insights, Patrick Barry

Articles

In Seeing What Other's Don't, the psychologist Gary Klein suggests that only focusing on reducing errors limits our ability to improve. We also need to spend time increasing insights. This short essay applies Klein's approach to writing and editing.


The Support-Or-Advocacy Clauses, Richard Primus, Cameron O. Kistler Oct 2020

The Support-Or-Advocacy Clauses, Richard Primus, Cameron O. Kistler

Articles

Two little known clauses of a Reconstruction-era civil rights statute are potentially powerful weapons for litigators seeking to protect the integrity of federal elections. For the clauses to achieve their potential, however, the courts will need to settle correctly a contested question of statutory interpretation: do the clauses create substantive rights, or do they merely create remedies for substantive rights specified elsewhere? The correct answer is that the clauses create substantive rights.


Rhetorical Repetition, Patrick Barry Aug 2020

Rhetorical Repetition, Patrick Barry

Articles

When it comes to persuading judges, boardrooms, or even just co-workers, many lawyers shy away from repetition. They remain committed to the idea, often developed in college, that good writing is associated with having (and showing) a big vocabulary. They mistakenly think the best thesaurus wins. This essay explores that error and offers ways to correct it.


Equality's Understudies, Aziz Z. Huq May 2020

Equality's Understudies, Aziz Z. Huq

Michigan Law Review

Review of Robert L. Tsai's Practical Equality: Forging Justice in a Divided Nation.


On Lawyers And Copy Editors, Jonathan I. Tietz May 2020

On Lawyers And Copy Editors, Jonathan I. Tietz

Michigan Law Review

Review of Benjamin Dreyer's Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.


Corresponding Ideas In Corresponding Forms, Patrick Barry Aug 2019

Corresponding Ideas In Corresponding Forms, Patrick Barry

Articles

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that content always comes before structure. You don’t need to figure out all your ideas before you decide how to organize them. Much value can come from going in the opposite direction: first figure out how you are going to organize your ideas—their appropriate structure—and then determine the appropriate content. I often offer law students the following suggestion: “Once you find the right structure, perhaps it will be easier to find the right content.”


Blurred Lines: What Is Extremism?, Anna C. Williford Jun 2019

Blurred Lines: What Is Extremism?, Anna C. Williford

University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform

The Michigan Journal of Law Reform Symposium, Alt-Association: The Role of Law in Combating Extremism (“the Symposium”), attempted to address the question of defining extremism. The Symposium aimed to provide a platform for filtering through the participants’ pre-conceived notions around extremism in order to challenge misconceptions about those labeled “extremist.” This word has been used time and time again in conversation, research, and even this paper without a concreate definition behind it. At the start of the Symposium, participants were asked to define extremism in their own words. The definitions produced were eye opening. For example, extremism was thought to …


Uselessly Accurate, Patrick Barry May 2019

Uselessly Accurate, Patrick Barry

Articles

There is an accuracy that defeats itself by the overemphasis in details," Justice Benjamin Cardozo wrote in his 1925 collection Law and Literature and Other Essays and Addresses. The problem hasn't gone away, as any reader of legal briefs, contracts, and memos can attest. This essay offers a few ways to help.


Good Sentences, Patrick Barry Feb 2019

Good Sentences, Patrick Barry

Articles

To write good sentences, you need to read good sentences. Skilled writers and editors know this, so they seek out good sentences wherever they can find them—the short stories of Alice Munro, the political essays of William F. Buckley, even well-crafted cartoons, speeches, and advertisements. They read not just with voracity but also with an eye toward larceny, always on the lookout for moves that they can learn and repurpose.


The Most Revealing Word In The United States Report, Richard Primus Jan 2019

The Most Revealing Word In The United States Report, Richard Primus

Articles

The most prominent issue in NFIB v. Sebelius was whether Congress’s regulatory power under the Commerce Clause stops at a point marked by a distinction between “activity” and “inactivity.” According to the law’s challengers, prior decisions about the scope of the commerce power already reflected the importance of the distinction between action and inaction. In all of the previous cases in which exercises of the commerce power had been sustained, the challengers argued, that power had been used to regulate activity. Never had Congress tried to regulate mere inactivity. In NFIB, four Justices rejected that contention, writing that such …


Shot Selection, Patrick Barry Sep 2018

Shot Selection, Patrick Barry

Articles

One of the more common pieces of writing advice in our post-Hemingway world is to keep sentences short. Experts on legal writing are particularly fond of this Position — and for good reason. Few judges look at the sentences that appear in briefs, memos, statutes, and contracts and say, "You know what each of those could use? More words." Professor Noah Messing does a particularly good job making the case for short sentences. Brevity, he explains, "reduces the risk that your writing will confuse or irk readers," especially given that "empirical studies show that writing verbosely makes writers sound dumber …


Paragraphing, Patrick Barry Aug 2018

Paragraphing, Patrick Barry

Articles

Consider treating the word paragraph as a verb. Think of it as something you can do well or poorly, with major consequences for your readers. Good paragraphers, for example, help readers. They make it easy to navigate and absorb information. They don’t flit around, hastily moving on to the next point before fully supporting their first. Nor do they get stuck for too long in one place. Instead, they give a lot of thought not just to the ideas but also to their arrangement—their shape, their balance, their pace.


Sites Of Storytelling: Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, Patrick Barry Aug 2018

Sites Of Storytelling: Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings, Patrick Barry

Articles

Supreme Court confirmation hearings have an interesting biographical feature: before nominees even say a word, many words are said about them. This feature— which has been on prominent display in the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh—is a product of how each senator on the confirmation committee is allowed to make an opening statement. Some of these statements are, as Robert Bork remembers from his own confirmation hearing, “lavish in their praise,” some are “lavish in their denunciations,” and some are “lavish in their equivocations.”1 The result is a disorienting kind of biography by committee, one which produces not one …


Editing And Empathy, Patrick Barry May 2018

Editing And Empathy, Patrick Barry

Articles

Design begins with empathy.” I recently wrote that on the board during a class for students in the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. I thought it might help them write better briefs. I got the idea from Ilse Crawford, whose work as an interior designer can be seen all over the world—from airport lounges in Hong Kong, to fancy restaurants in London, to pear-shaped stools at IKEA. In Crawford’s view, “empathy is a cornerstone of design.”1 She thinks it is important to understand the spaces and products she creates from the perspective of the …


What We Still Don't Know About What Persuades Judges – And Some Ways We Might Find Out, Edward R. Becker May 2018

What We Still Don't Know About What Persuades Judges – And Some Ways We Might Find Out, Edward R. Becker

Articles

Over 25 years ago, in his foreword to the first volume of Legal Writing, Chris Rideout nailed it: legal writing as actually practiced by lawyers and judges needs to improve, “[b]ut more fundamental inquiry into legal writing...is needed as well.” The intervening decades have seen many laudable efforts on the latter front, as our collective scholarly discipline, then in its infancy, has matured. But one particular question that Rideout identified remains largely unaddressed by our discipline, although recent developments suggest a welcome increase in attention to the topic. Specifically, Rideout explained that our field did not know as much as …


The Language-Game Of Privacy, Joshua A.T. Fairfield Apr 2018

The Language-Game Of Privacy, Joshua A.T. Fairfield

Michigan Law Review

A review of Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr., Privacy Revisited: A Global Perspective on the Right to Be Left Alone.


High-Stakes Interpretation, Ryan D. Doerfler Feb 2018

High-Stakes Interpretation, Ryan D. Doerfler

Michigan Law Review

Courts look at text differently in high-stakes cases. Statutory language that would otherwise be “unambiguous” suddenly becomes “less than clear.” This, in turn, frees up courts to sidestep constitutional conflicts, avoid dramatic policy changes, and, more generally, get around undesirable outcomes. The standard account of this behavior is that courts’ failure to recognize “clear” or “unambiguous” meanings in such cases is motivated or disingenuous, and, at best, justified on instrumentalist grounds.

This Article challenges that account. It argues instead that, as a purely epistemic matter, it is more difficult to “know” what a text means—and, hence, more difficult to regard …


Working Sex Words, Anita Bernstein Dec 2017

Working Sex Words, Anita Bernstein

Michigan Journal of Gender & Law

Imagine yourself tasked to speak for a few minutes about legal controls on sex-selling in the United States, or any other country you choose. You need not have thought about the particulars. As someone willing to read a law review article, you have enough to say because sex-selling overlaps with the subject knowledge you already have. Criminal law, contracts, employment law, immigration law, tort law, zoning, commercial law, and intellectual property, among other legal categories, all intersect with this topic. In your brief remarks on how law attempts to mediate the sale and purchase of sex, you have only one …


Corpus Linguistics: Misfire Or More Ammo For The Ordinary - Meaning Canon?, John D. Ramer Nov 2017

Corpus Linguistics: Misfire Or More Ammo For The Ordinary - Meaning Canon?, John D. Ramer

Michigan Law Review

Scholars and judges have heralded corpus linguistics—the study of language through collections of spoken or written texts—as a novel tool for statutory interpretation that will help provide an answer in the occasionally ambiguous search for “ordinary meaning” using dictionaries. In the spring of 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court became the first to use corpus linguistics in a majority opinion. The dissent also used it, however, and the two opinions reached different conclusions. In the first true test for corpus linguistics, the answer seemed to be just as ambiguous as before.

This result calls into question the utility of corpus linguistics. …


The Words Under The Words, Patrick Barry Aug 2017

The Words Under The Words, Patrick Barry

Articles

The words lawyers choose can change the decisions people make. Psychologists call the mechanics of this change “framing.” They’ve found, for example, that more people will decide to have a surgery if they are told that the “survival rate is 90%” than if they are told that the “mortality rate is 10%” — even though a survival rate of 90% is exactly the same as a mortality rate of 10%. They’ve also found that having to pay a “surcharge” for using a credit card rankles people (especially people in the credit card lobby) more than if they were simply told …


“Why Should I Go Vote Without Understanding What I Am Going To Vote For?” The Impact Of First Generation Voting Barriers On Alaska Natives, James Thomas Tucker, Natalie A. Landreth, Erin Dougherty Lynch Mar 2017

“Why Should I Go Vote Without Understanding What I Am Going To Vote For?” The Impact Of First Generation Voting Barriers On Alaska Natives, James Thomas Tucker, Natalie A. Landreth, Erin Dougherty Lynch

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

This article explores the many forms of discrimination that have persisted in Alaska, the resulting first generation voting barriers faced by Alaska Native voters, and the two contested lawsuits it took to attain a measure of equality for those voters in four regions of Alaska: Nick v. Bethel and Toyukak v. Treadwell. In the end, the court’s decision in Toyukak came down to a comparison of just two pieces of evidence: (1) the Official Election Pamphlet that English-speaking voters received that was often more than 100 pages long; and (2) the single sheet of paper that Alaska Native language …


Comma But Differentiated Responsibilities: Punctuation And 30 Other Ways Negotiators Have Resolved Issues In The International Climate Change Regime, Susan Biniaz Oct 2016

Comma But Differentiated Responsibilities: Punctuation And 30 Other Ways Negotiators Have Resolved Issues In The International Climate Change Regime, Susan Biniaz

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law

International climate change negotiations have a long history of being contentious, and much has been written about the grand trade-offs that have allowed countries to reach agreement. Issues have often involved, for example, the level of ambition, differentiated treatment of Parties, and various forms of financial assistance to developing countries.

Lesser known are the smaller, largely language-based tools negotiators have used to resolve differences, sometimes finding a solution as subtle as a shift in the placement of a comma. These tools have operated in different ways. Some, such as deliberate imprecision or postponement, have “resolved” an issue by sidestepping it …


Carrot Or Stick? The Shift From Voluntary To Mandatory Disclosure Of Risk Factors, Karen K. Nelson, Adam C. Pritchard Jun 2016

Carrot Or Stick? The Shift From Voluntary To Mandatory Disclosure Of Risk Factors, Karen K. Nelson, Adam C. Pritchard

Articles

This study investigates risk factor disclosures, examining both the voluntary, incentive-based disclosure regime provided by the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act as well as the SEC's subsequent mandate of these disclosures. Firms subject to greater litigation risk disclose more risk factors, update the language more from year to year, and use more readable language than firms with lower litigation risk. These differences in the quality of disclosure are pronounced in the voluntary disclosure regime, but converge following the SEC mandate as low-risk firms improved the quality of their risk factor disclosures. Consistent with these findings, …


How The E-Government Can Save Money By Building Bridges Across The Digital Divide, Alison Rogers Jan 2016

How The E-Government Can Save Money By Building Bridges Across The Digital Divide, Alison Rogers

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

As government agencies and federal aid recipients begin to build a presence online, they must recognize that language accessibility is morally required, fiscally responsible, and compulsory under federal civil rights law. This Note explores statutes, federal policies, and case law that purport to protect the rights of limited English proficient (“LEP”) individuals in cyberspace. The Note suggests reforms, policies, and programs that should be adopted by federal aid recipients to ensure that LEP individuals have meaningful access to online services.


Fun With Administrative Law: A Game For Lawyers And Judges, Adam Babich May 2015

Fun With Administrative Law: A Game For Lawyers And Judges, Adam Babich

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law

The practice of law is not a game. Administrative law in particular can implicate important issues that impact people’s health, safety, and welfare and change business’ profitability or even viability. Nonetheless, it can seem like a game. This is because courts rarely explain administrative law rulings in terms of the public purposes and policies at issue in lawsuits. Instead, the courts’ administrative law opinions tend to turn on arcane interpretive doctrines with silly names, such as the “Chevron two-step” or “Chevron step zero.” To advance doctrinal arguments, advocates and courts engage in linguistic debates that resemble a smokescreen—tending to obscure …


Inciting Genocide With Words, Richard A. Wilson Apr 2015

Inciting Genocide With Words, Richard A. Wilson

Michigan Journal of International Law

During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, observers emphasized the role of media propaganda in inciting Rwandan Hutus to attack the Tutsi minority group, with one claiming that the primary tools of genocide were “the radio and the machete.” As a steady stream of commentators referred to “radio genocide” and “death by radio” and “the soundtrack to genocide,” a widespread consensus emerged that key responsibility for the genocide lay with the Rwandan media. Mathias Ruzindana, prosecution expert witness at the ICTR, supports this notion, writing, “In the case of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the effect of language was lethal . …


The Incitement Of Terrorism On The Internet: Legal Standards, Enforcement, And The Role Of The European Union, Ezekiel Rediker Apr 2015

The Incitement Of Terrorism On The Internet: Legal Standards, Enforcement, And The Role Of The European Union, Ezekiel Rediker

Michigan Journal of International Law

Consider this sentence: “The Shining Path is a heroic organization.” Over the past thirty years, the Shining Path has waged a violent guerilla war against the Peruvian government, prompting the European Union to designate the group as a terrorist organization. In certain European countries, speech inciting or glorifying terrorist organizations is criminalized. As a result, citizens risk prosecution if they do not carefully limit what they say about the Shining Path, or other terrorist organizations. But where does free speech end and incitement to terrorism begin? The debate over free speech and incitement to terrorism is actively being played out …