Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

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kykiske
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Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby kykiske » Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:06 pm

I have always wondered why statutes are drafted the way they are.

So many are dense, and incredibly hard to understand. And yet, all throughout law school, we are taught that the best legal writing is clear, concise, and simple.

Are there strong reasons for why statutes are drafted in a manner that a layperson would not fully understand?

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minnbills
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby minnbills » Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:17 pm

I have a suspicion the bankruptcy code is purposely dense and unclear to make it harder for pro se people to successfully file bankruptcy, and just to make it harder in general.

The FRCP on the other hand, are pretty clear. I think part of it depends on the intended audience.

Gorki
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby Gorki » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:22 pm

kykiske wrote:I have always wondered why statutes are drafted the way they are.

So many are dense, and incredibly hard to understand. And yet, all throughout law school, we are taught that the best legal writing is clear, concise, and simple.

Are there strong reasons for why statutes are drafted in a manner that a layperson would not fully understand?


Because complexity does not always go well with simplicity. Then there is shit like the UCC. Which, I have no idea why most of it is written so arcanely. I suspect the drafters got wasted and just went nuts on typewriters.

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Hipster but Athletic
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby Hipster but Athletic » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:24 pm

I agree about bankruptcy code, but I think the UCC is pretty well written

superhanz
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby superhanz » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:28 pm

minnbills wrote:I have a suspicion the bankruptcy code is purposely dense and unclear to make it harder for pro se people to successfully file bankruptcy, and just to make it harder in general.

The FRCP on the other hand, are pretty clear. I think part of it depends on the intended audience.
minnbills wrote:I have a suspicion the bankruptcy code is purposely dense and unclear to make it harder for pro se people to successfully file bankruptcy, and just to make it harder in general.

The FRCP on the other hand, are pretty clear. I think part of it depends on the intended audience.


I felt that way about the bankruptcy code, until I took federal income tax.

kykiske
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby kykiske » Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:09 am

I feel the exact same way about the UCC.

Actually, not fully comprehending the UCC was why Contracts was such a hard course for me.

The only reason I did well was because I was in a study group, and we spent a whole weekend breaking down the key provisions into comprehensible language.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:20 pm

Note that the UCC was written in part to codify existing common law. So many of the provisions seem arcane because they are attempting to either capture the essense of what some obscure case held, or alternatively to avoid some obscure case's undesireable outcome.

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minnbills
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby minnbills » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:29 pm

huh, I think the UCC is well-written.

I am not looking forward to tax next semester :(

Gorki
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby Gorki » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:33 pm

minnbills wrote:huh, I think the UCC is well-written.

I am not looking forward to tax next semester :(


Just consult the CFRs, they make it a lot easier to understand. Use the parallel table of authorities and your gold. UCC, esp article 9, seems loaded with double negatives and the comments are not even close to as powerful as the CFRs were in tax.

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hephaestus
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby hephaestus » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:34 pm

minnbills wrote:huh, I think the UCC is well-written.

I am not looking forward to tax next semester :(

I think the Tax Code is intuitive enough. It's no more confusing than the UCC.

WinbyLazy
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby WinbyLazy » Thu Oct 10, 2013 5:12 pm

FRE's are pretty straight forward, too.

The MR RPCs on the other hand... nope.

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thesealocust
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby thesealocust » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:26 pm

Just ask yourself who the authors are.

FRCP: The federal judiciary and their designees

UCC etc.: Groups of law professors and law nerds

Most other statutes: People, lawyers or otherwise, elected to public office and whatever bastard children between them, staff members, and lobbyists they happen to spawn. by the way, they were drafted sometime between now and the founding of the republic. May or may not have been updated or thought about since then.

Stinson
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby Stinson » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:46 pm

Environmental Statutes = deliberate obfuscation. We used to read them aloud in class like a story-time. Still made no sense.

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Lwoods
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby Lwoods » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:50 pm

ImNoScar wrote:
minnbills wrote:huh, I think the UCC is well-written.

I am not looking forward to tax next semester :(

I think the Tax Code is intuitive enough. It's no more confusing than the UCC.


Until you get to corporate tax. Then it stops being intuitive. Also, I don't remember nearly as many double negatives in the income tax sections.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:24 am

I'll add this - when you have to interpret a statute, take a step back and look at the table of contents FIRST. Look at where your statute is in the book. Look at the statutes around it. You cannot understand a statute in isolation. There is a structure. Is it part of a scheme. See the scheme first before parsing the statute you care about.

Myself
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.

Postby Myself » Fri Oct 11, 2013 1:29 pm

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Last edited by Myself on Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Totalimmortal
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Re: Why are most statutes incredibly hard to read/understand?

Postby Totalimmortal » Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:41 pm

kykiske wrote:I have always wondered why statutes are drafted the way they are.

So many are dense, and incredibly hard to understand. And yet, all throughout law school, we are taught that the best legal writing is clear, concise, and simple.

Are there strong reasons for why statutes are drafted in a manner that a layperson would not fully understand?
Because they convey an extremely precise meaning and if composed well neither include nor exclude anything without intent. It's a pain in the ass but it makes sense.




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