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Lawyers’ duty to speak proper and be nice like

March 17th, 2010 · No Comments

Update, 8 April 2010: The full-text version of Ms Jones’ article is freely available here.  See also this article published on the Queensland Law Society’s impressive website.

Original post: Nicky Jones has written a scholarly article about lawyers’ duty to remain courteous: Lawyers, Language and Legal Professional Standards: Legal Services Commissioner v Turley [2008] LPT 4, published at (2009) 28(2) The University of Queensland Law Journal 353-359. Volume 28(2) is in fact a special edition of that journal, entitled ‘Australian and New Zealand Lawyers: Ethics and Regulation’, and I am seeking out a copy.

For a scholarly treatment of what is and is not nice, like, I recommend the relevant bit of Julian Burnside QC’s Word Watching.  Ms Jones’ writing gives me a chance to link to one of my favourite legal documents, a submission by a Colorado lawyer to strike out a criminal charge against a young man who allegedly called his principal a ‘fucker, a fag, and a fucking fag.’  Here is a flavour:

‘In order to provide a context for the alleged crime, we must first examine the history of Fuck and its evolution in society. Fuck’s earliest recorded use is prior to the year 1500 from the English-Latin poem Flen Flyys: “Non sunt in celi quia fuccant uuiuys of heli,” which traslates to “they are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of Ely.” See www.wikipedia.org/wiki/fuck.

Although still offensive to some, Fuck is a more commonly used and accepted term in today’s twenty-first century society than it was in the past. Use of the word Fuck “has been accepted in R-rated movies (and occasionally in PG-13 movies, though not often). Since the 1970’s, the use of the word Fuck in R-rated movies has become so commonplace in mainstream American movies that it is rarely noticed by most audiences.” Id. Some movies such as Scarface, Porky’s and Goodfellas are known for the extensive use of the family of Fuck words (Fuck, Fucking, Fucker, Fuckface, Fucked, Absofuckinglutely, etc.) and in the non-US version of the comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, Fuck is the chief word and repeatedly uttered during the first five minutes of the film. Id. Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven academy awards and took home the Oscar for best screenplay with its zealous and gratuitous use of Fuck phrases. It would be far fetched to argue that the Fuck family has not made its way into mainstream society.’

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Tags: Ethics · Legal writing · litigation ethics