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Book Plain English for Drafting Statutes and Rules by Robert J. Martineau (2012-10-31)


Plain English for Drafting Statutes and Rules by Robert J. Martineau (2012-10-31)

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  • By DiscipleAaron on August 7, 2014

    For many out there fancying themselves "activists," no subject could be more appropriate than a single text that treats how to write clear legislation. When coupled with an advanced Parliamentary Procedure course, this book is the "one" in the one-two punch.People often say "there ought to be a law..." then contact a legislator who passes off the idea to the bill room of the state house. By the time those lawyers are done with it, it fails in serving the intended purpose in ways that would make De Tocqueville roll in his grave. Americans once respected law because THEY WROTE IT, taking the best from Common Law, and making sense of it in ways each citizen could understand -- knowing what conduct was expected, or prohibited. No longer. The jargon masquerading as law in this nation is atrocious, and Martineau nails it.We need common laws in PLAIN ENGLISH. This book crusades for a noble cause.That said, it is crucial that people have a solid English foundation under them before taking a Bill Drafting course using this text. You need a thorough grasp on the parts of speech, and an understanding of proper structure for "plain English" writing. (At Sherman Institute, we had to give this course an upper 200 level designation, enabling students to absorb courses such as Sentence Analytics, and first/second year English composition, prior to landing in this deeper water.) But it's not rocket science to write clear, sharp sentences and to choose the correct word for accomplishing a goal in legislation. Problem is, most people who think they are good writers are not, including lawyers (as Martineau sharply notes). Having critical thinking skills, and actually doing the labors required to throw out the rhetoric, and substitute clarity, is all that's needed to write GOOD legislative proposals. America needs people with those skills badly, and now.Of course, this text has a bit of room for improvement, but that's what the Deans of English and Political Science are for. Using it, slightly perhaps rearranging the order in which the chapters are presented to students, and supplementing it with a handful of other examples (context sensitive to both student and purpose) makes it a 5 star hit. The fact that it weighs in at only 136 pages is no cause for alarm in the realm of college-level text material. The mental exercises required for a student are ample for each short chapter (which might only be eight pages). By keeping it to the point, the author leads by example. Well done, in that respect. Then bring in the project for the week. This forces people to really choose words carefully, practice one concept at a time, and develop as better writers.Though usually a separate topic, Statutory Interpretation is also covered in this text from the perspective of the drafter. Why bother even writing a law if your language is such that it opens doors for judicial (or even citizen) misinterpretation, confusion, or being thrown out as "void for vagueness?" Laws are not only subject to vague language, but many other potential attacks on literary grounds. This text points out the snares, and illustrates how to get it right.For colleges, this course ought be taught in partnership between at least two instructors (as we do) -- one wearing the hat of high-level English, and the other Political Science. The marriage of those concepts is overt in this subject matter. The path a proposed bill travels means it can get amended at a host of stopping points on its journey, and the political science department will probably have a better handle on those minutia than the grammarians. But the English department can send in their fussiest word-smith to wrestle the right words out of the dictionary (and student) for use in model bill drafting projects.For the activist, the good news is that YOUR writing skills can perfect a marginally-useful item of legislation while in the committee or floor debate portions of its route. Develop the needed skills with the aid of this text, and watchdog what in the wide world of sports happens at your statehouse. Take other courses connected to the motion of a bill through its enactment, and learn the Parliamentary Procedure required for making things happen. With this text under your belt, you can show off your qualifications to fix some of the horrendous items coming from ALEC, the NCSL, the ACIR, focus/interest groups (who also do much modern bill drafting) and the Model Penal Codes out there.The so-called "professionals" sitting in endless Assembly sessions today are making a mess of our statutes. This book helps you understand why, and what should be done about it.

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