Legal Blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The lawyer as a virtuoso of language (part I)

The use of technical concepts has a useful function

Language is the instrument par excellence of the advocate (attorney; lawyer). He uses language to lay down agreements, to provide legal advices, to formulate Court documents, to send demand letters, to make his plea or to conduct talks with clients or counterparties, to send invoices, in short: to practice his profession. For many people what advocates write down is difficult to fathom. One of the reasons for this is because legislation and regulations are formulated rather formally and in an indirect form while using a lot of abstract concepts. Here are only a few examples from thousands to illustrate this.

It is prohibited to steal a bike. Translated into legal jargon it becomes: The person who takes away any item belonging in part or in whole to another with the intention to appropriate it wrongfully will be punished as guilty of theft with a prison sentence of not more than four years or a fine of the fourth category.

A ‘ship’ within the sense of the Dutch Caribbean ‘Landsverordening aansprakelijkheid olietankschepen’ [National Ordinance liability oil tankships] is described in Article 1 as follows: “all sea ships and other sea-going vessels of any type whatsoever, constructed or adjusted for the transport of oil in bulk as its cargo on the understanding that a vessel that is able to transport oil and other types of cargo is only considered to be a ship when it actually transports oil in bulk as its cargo and after each trip after such a transport, unless it is demonstrated that it has no residues of such transport of oil on board”.

In the Dutch Caribbean ‘Landsverordening regelende de uitoefening van de geneeskunde’ [National Ordinance regulating the practice of medicine] the provision of advice or assistance in practicing medicine means: "examining as a profession whether an organ or a part of the human body, which organ or which part fails in its function or shows another ailment, as well as recommending as a profession a remedy to accommodate such a deficiency or ailment”.

European law, however as much it is in itself quite a serious matter, is a source of inspiration for cabaret performers. On 15 June 1988 the Commission of the European Communities adopted the Regulation laying down quality standards for cucumbers (EEC, no. 1677/88) which has in the meantime again been revoked on 1 July 2009.

The background to this Directive was a serious problem. The Member States of the European Union all had their own standards and quality classes for cucumbers. However, they refused to grant a suitable quality class to cucumbers with a certain curve from other Member States so that they were not allowed to be imported. This obviously happened to protect the home market from foreign cucumbers; so this was a form of protectionism. This resulted in commercial losses by producers and wholesalers, which was followed by political pressure which in the end made the European Commission decide to determine the standards themselves.

The Regulation related according to Article 1 of the Annex to “cucumber of the cultivars derived from Cucumis sativus L., to be supplied fresh to the consumer, gherkins and cucumbers for industrial processing being excluded”. Next all kinds of requirements were set on cucumbers such as: cucumbers (a) must be intact and sound; (b) be of fresh appearance; (c) be free from any abnormal external moisture, and (d) be sufficiently developed, but could not have any hardened seeds. There were again different requirements for different cucumber classes, of which we mention here that class 1 cucumbers had to be quite well formed and practically straight (maximum height of the curve: 10 mm per 10 cm cucumber length) and that crooked cucumbers were only allowed if they only showed a slight colour deviation; any defect or other deviation in form other than a curve was not allowed.

(To be continued)

Filed under: On the nature of lawyers by Karel Frielink.



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