Sunday, January 17, 2010

Legal Fictions

a Statement of Purpose...

...probably isn't necessary but it's always better to preface any endeavor of significance, if only to summarize the wherefores and the whys.

The title tells the tale. In the process of getting a paralegal certificate, one has to learn a lot of things that one is unlikely to ever need again. [cf. 11th grade algebra] And that's too bad because, in order to get this little paper, you have to, at least partially, think like a lawyer. Now this may not be thought of in too great a light, considering the number of jokes on the subject, but it does offer one benefit. For a brief time, you see not only your side of an argument, but the opposing side as well--the "devil's advocate" position--and even a third perspective, the "Rashomon" view of the Law itself.

One of the results of this is that the endless reruns of "Law & Order" start to make more than sense. For example, seeing opposing counsel serving papers on Abbie, one of Jack's many ADA's, you could see the blue back, indicative of a Supreme Court motion, but you could also see that someone hadn't bothered to actually staple it on. This would never get through the door in the real world. Not to say that it spoiled subsequent episodes, but once your eyes have been opened...well...

The other is that, somewhere along the line, the New York Law Journal began to seem more like morality plays. Or at least telenovellas. Is it possible that these dry, dull recitations of things in medias res before the State and Federal court systems could be as engrossing as "Desperate Housewives"? Ok.--that was facetious; but "Harvey Birdman"? Yes, if you understand that the drama is also in the wording of statutes and the parsing of judgments along the thinnest of lines. And if you read between the lines.

But to really get inside, it is also necessary to take the legalese and give it some attitude. Then fill in the blanks with snappy patter, bits of business, stagecraft and all while wearing as many hats as you can.

To that end, a few years ago, I set myself a sort of challenge: take the four headline stories each day and try to absorb, as much as possible, what was going on to whom by which and for what reason. Sometimes I wouldn't get more than a wiseacre abstract that might sound like keynotes written by Damon Runyon. On others, I settled for an extended metaphor; admittedly cheap, but memorable. And then there were those that just opened like flowers. The only rules were that it includes quotes from decisions and the law verbaitum, change names whenever it felt right, and had to be handwritten on a steno pad and in pencil.

This then is what I dusted off for the sheer anarchic joy of random trips into the often surrealistic world of jurisprudence. And yes, they are, pretty much, the original scribblings, give or take a little tweaking.

Let's Oyez Terminer!

No comments:

Post a Comment