The Legislative History of Legal English and Other Terms

Law research

According to Statistic Brain, a numbers hub for myriad different industries, around 13 percent of all civil lawsuits brought about in the United States have to do with product liability issues. In other words, someone attempts to use a particular item sold by a company and ends up hurting him or herself with it. Then, he or she seeks legal counsel in order to get compensated for the physical injury caused to her by the defective product.

But that’s just one kind of civil suit in the U.S. Since tort law — situations where a person’s behavior unfairly causes someone else loss or harm — makes up a decent portion of all the legal cases in country, it tends to have a number of different subsections. Product liability is merely one of them. Others include personal injury, medical malpractice, car accidents and the like.

It’s interesting the study the legislative history of both tort law and civil suits in general because of what they say about the U.S. as a nation. We are, statistics show, one of the most litigated countries in the world, and civil suits alone make up nearly $233 billion of the national economy per year. Couple that fact with the actual language of most laws and the U.S. legal system seems like a very epic, dramatic enterprise. Which it is.

Looks at the statuatory history of most legal statues. They’re written in what’s often called Legal English and sometimes referred to (sardonically) as Legalese. It’s a humorous name for an often confusing form of communication that, if you’re not well-versed in it, could even be accused of being doublespeak. The fact is, though, that modern Legal English traces its roots back to French and Latin, especially in terms of grammar and sentence structure.

Examine the legislative history of all the different federal statutes and regulations in the land. It doesn’t take much legal research to see how these particular language quirks come into play in the courtroom, especially when it comes to doublets and triplets. No, we’re not talking about tennis here — have you ever heard the terms “fit and proper,” “terms and conditions” or “aiding and abetting”? These are similar, near-exact terms purposely put together in order to eliminate any confusion or misconception about what they might mean.

Studying the legislative history of the U.S. and other Western nations is a rich mosaic of missteps, landmarks and, often, rulings that are controversial at the time but looked upon as momentous later in history. Any amount of law research will tell you this. Remember, it’s all out there for you to find.

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