Monday, August 29, 2005

John G. Roberts Jr., Judge and Grammarian

Anne Kornblut has an August 29, 2005 article at the New York Times on Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. The article carries the unexpected title, In Re Grammar, Roberts's Stance Is Crystal Clear.

Kornblut writes inter alia:

"Judge Roberts's emphasis on written language came as welcome news even to a Democratic partisan, Theodore C. Sorensen, who served as special counsel and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy, even if it did not allay his concerns about the opinions Judge Roberts could issue from the bench if confirmed.

"The language ought to be used precisely, particularly by lawyers and judges," Mr. Sorensen said. "This is the best thing I've heard about Judge Roberts so far." "


[Note: According to the PaulWeiss 2005 alumni directory (p. 19), Sorensen is today of counsel to that firm, at which the Law Pundit was an associate in his younger years.

Many moons later, "Legal Writing" was a course which the Law Pundit taught at the law school level. Precise writing remains at the top of the list of skills which are required for success in law, whether in law school or in the later practice of the legal profession. We agree that Roberts's penchant for grammar speaks for his nomination, which raises the question of whether it is correctly Roberts' or Roberts's? Why do you think so? Is it logic or convention? For an answer, see The Crossword Centre.]

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Law, Land Measure and the Imperial and Metric Systems

EUobserver reports in an article by Lisbeth Kirk that Brussels pressures Britain to go metric.

We have never understood what advantage this is supposed to bring to the UK or anyone else for that matter. After all, the two leading nations of the world, the US and the UK, both still use the ancient inches and feet sexagesimal-type "imperial" system, which is still also visible in the fact that we have 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and so on. Imagine - for the sake of consistency - now changing those as well to the metric system, e.g. so that we would have 100 deci-minutes in an hour or 30 deci-hours in a day.

It would be chaos.

To this we can add the powerful worldwide prevalence of the 360-degree circle, the change of which to a 300 or 400 degree circle would wreak absolute havoc in all the world's mathematics and measurement.

At the level of computer users, various attempts have been made here in continental Europe to replace the inch descriptions of computer monitors and screens with metric equivalents, to no avail, since it simply leads to mass confusion and time-wasting relearning with no logical benefit. Computer monitors are advertised and almost everywhere in Europe still described to be 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, etc. inches.

We not only print by dpi = dots per inch, but the well-known pixel = one dot. Our screen resolution is given in pixels. It would then be completely idiotic not to also measure monitor and screen sizes by the imperial system.

It would be even worse for our use and understanding of text fonts if also here we had to go from the imperial to the metric system, since font sizes are give in points, and 72 points = 1 inch. The standard 12-point type is thus 1/6 of an inch, except that Microsoft Windows magnifies fonts by 33% so that only Macs actually render 12-point type accurately, which in the past led to different website text resolution on Macs than on PCs.

The American Bar Association has an excellent article by Mark Senn on its website entitled "Reflections on Some Forgotten Terms of Land Measurement" (published in Probate Property, March/April 2002, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp 8-11, here as a .pdf, and based on a similar article originally published in 19 ACREL News No. 3, Aug. 2001, at 5) which contains a useful summary of the development of both the imperial and metric systems in human and land measurement.

In Germany, e.g. the inch is called a "Zoll" and so now the "new" meter-measuring folding rule is still called a "Zollstock", even though it generally no longer measures inches but rather centimeters and meters.

The inches and feet system will long be with us in one form or another.

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Cross posted to EUPundit.
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OUT-LAW Magazine for IT and e-commerce

OUT-LAW Magazine, a free legal publication, is published by Pinsent Masons
one of the UK's leading law firms.

OUT-LAW Magazine is produced by this team and has over 12000 subscribers.

It offers
"IT e-commerce legal help from international law firm Pinsent Masons".

Back issues
are available.

The presentation of legal developments as a law firm magazine is surely a futuristic information format worthy of emulation.
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