Wording and Terms in Legal Filings

You can learn the correct terms from filings findable on the Net. Unfamiliar terms can be looked up in Legal Dictionary contained in www.nolo.com and other readily findable on-line dictionaries. MOST IMPORTANTLY, so you won't be accused of perjury or slander/libel should your Statements of Fact later be shown incorrect - follow the example of lawyers. They typically either present any such claims of fact as opinions using such words/expressions as: "evidently", "clearly", "it is reasonable to conclude that" "..is consistent with 'something/somebody' being.." "it appears that". They also might say "We/This Plaintiff assert that..." or the verbs "aver", "claim", "allege" "We aver that..." Hardly ever do lawyers state anything unequivocally as fact. When stating dates they are also hedging; hardly ever just stating the date, but rather say "on or about 12/31/09". When quoting they usually put the actual quote in quote marks and then add "or words to that effect"

As the Rules of Civil Procedure state there are penalties for making statements which you cannot prove or support with any evidence. Using the words "said" and "same" - the said words are used to refer to something previously mentioned: instead of writing again "copy of the Employment Contract dated by 12/31/09" they would say "copy of the said contract" or "contract original and a copy of the same" Some useful and common expressions: "Attached hereto/thereto", "Enclosed herewith", "hereby(meaning this document)certifies that", "thereby(thus)causing further harm to the Plaintiff", "wherefore (in light of the above) we ask this Court..." Including large blocks of text from other documents is done by Reference: "the section of XXXXXXX attached hereto as exhibit B will not be re-iterated here but is included by way of reference as if fully set forth".

Harsh words such as lie, stupidity etc are likely to irritate the judge, thus words such as false, falsehood, misstatement, absurdity, deception, irrational etc are used. A litigant should NEVER use derogatory terms, court will penalize it and it is self defeating. Sarcasm is quite common and acceptable, sentence such as:"but it would not be fair to say that the whole Plaintiff's 'case' consists of falsehoods alone, as it also includes absurdities. For example Plaintiff's claim that...does not make any sense.." or "Thinking rationally it is impossible to understand this claim by the Defendant, as...".

Very importantly, the words in legal proceedings should be taken LITERALLY: if you see something like "there is no evidence that such and such took place" it means exactly that - they are not denying that something took place, but rather are alleging that there is no evidence. To give you an entertaining example: as I recall, Clinton denied in Court his liaison with Lewinsky - "There's not a sexual relationship!". When they started accusing him of perjury his answer was: it depends on how you define the word is. "Is not and has never been or is not at this moment" or words to that effect. When pressed to explain what his definition of "is" was, he went on to say he meant "is not at this moment" and further explained that what he said was: he did not have sexual relations at that particular moment(in court!). Another example in filings that I've seen, a lawyer claimed that the defendant was being sued for X dollars - full amount + costs etc of what she borrowed from a bank and that she did not pay "that" amount back. He knew perfectly well that she paid most of it back. But if we tried to press the issue, he would have said he meant "EXACTLY THAT" amount. Likewise facing question about a client's net worth related to his ability to pay child support a lawyer quite truthfully said that it's difficult to get an exact dollar amount, but he's sure his clients net worth exceeds $100,000 which was true but grossly misleading. If he said it exceeds $300,000 that would have also been true. Lawyers use these methods for saying untruths without actually lying and perjuring themselves. 

Abbreviations: USC - US Code, Fed.R.Civ.P - Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, FRAP - Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure

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