Profanity Appears More Frequently in Recent Opinions

shield-1286293__180In a more amusing sign of the times, law.com has a new report on one topic judges have been wrestling with for the last few years: whether they should include expletives in their written opinions. But that debate might be over for good. According to the report, the F-Bomb has been quoted in its entirety in 2016 appellate decisions as much as it has in previous four decades combined.

The use of profanity it court opinions has always been a thorny issue. Some judges always substitute the full word for some censored version like “F-word” or simply “expletive.” But others judges believe it’s important to quote the record in full.

Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with the latter.

Look at what judges deal with—you have murderers, people who steal hundreds of millions of dollars. To the extent that their activities are connected with obscenities, obscene messages, that’s part of the case.”

Other lawyers either avoid quoting profanity or advise doing so only when strictly necessary.

“Even if they’re accepted in many situations or not entirely disapproved of, still I think that a judicial opinion is sacred and why of all places should you include it unless it’s relevant?” said Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits.

As use of profanity has become more casual and widespread, this is a problem that was bound to arise sooner or later. Though there is no set rule on how to deal with such language in the rigorously formal setting of the courtroom, there are basically two ways of approaching the problem, and as long as lawyers remain diligent and respectful of the judge’s preferences, it shouldn’t pose too much of an issue. Ultimately, this issue is about accuracy and ensuring proper adjudication of the record.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask


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