28 September 2013

The 'R' in Case Names

In today's post I write about the 'R' in case names. This is one of many legal peculiarities that becomes familiar very quickly. It is important to understand these peculiarities because they are the basics in law.

1. What does 'R' Mean?

'R' is short for Regina or Rex, Queen or King--depending on who reigned at the time the case was heard. Pronounce 'R' as 'the Crown' or 'Crown'. Get used to saying 'Crown' every time you read 'R' in a case name; this will ensure some accuracy in oral presentations.

Thanks to Queen Elizabeth II's longevity, the 'R' in all recent cases may also be pronounced 'The Queen' or 'Queen'. But if citing cases preceding her reign, it is necessary to discover who the contemporary monarch was.

In written assessments, it is probably unnecessary to discover who reigned, because you can either write--depending on the purpose for which 'R' is needed:
  • 'R v (Other Party)'--when referring to the case by its title. There are no extra marks for replacing 'R' with whatever gendered monarch it refers to.
    • Always italicise case names in word-processed legal writing.
    • Always underline case names in hand-written legal writing.
    • Never write case names in bold; it will annoy whoever marks your work--and you want to keep them happy.
  • 'Prosecution'--R is the prosecuting party in a court of first instance (which is the Magistrates' in the majority of criminal cases). Prosecution need not be capitalised except to be grammatical, ie when a sentence begins.
  • 'Claimant'--When 'ex p', 'ex parte', '(bracketed words)', or 'on behalf of' follows R in a case name, the Crown acts on behalf of an individual or group against a public body whose decision is considered wrong.
    • In older cases 'plaintiff' is used.
    • Plaintiff and claimant mean the same thing.
    • Never write 'plaintiff' unless quoting: it is archaic; you will not gain marks and will probably annoy whoever marks your work because you should know better.
  • 'Appellant'--R is the appellant (ie, R appeals) after unsuccessful attempts to prosecute or remedy public-body wrongdoing. That is, when the court of first instance held the defendant not guilty or the public body's act or omission to be lawful. Capitalisation is not required unless 'appellant' is the first word in a sentence.
  • 'Respondent'--R is the respondent (ie R responds to an appeal) when the defendant appeals against a successful conviction or a public body appeals against having their conduct judged unlawful. Again, there is no need to capitalise unless grammar-rules dictate.
There are other uses, but these are the main ones.

In oral assessments, the words used are the same. But pronounce R as 'the Crown' when speaking a case name. Then be more specific when referring to a particular party's argument. For example:
  • The respondent claims…
  • The prosecution argues…
  • The appellant submits…
  • The claimant asserts…

'R' is usually found in criminal cases. 'The Crown' in this sense, is synonymous with the public. In the US, 'People' is often used. 'People' means roughly the same thing when written as a party to a case: R or the People are called upon to represent the public when an individual is considered to be a criminal who needs dealing with. All this soon becomes evident and normal after reading case law and speaking about cases.

2. Conclusion

Using R in the right way is easy. As a law student, you will soon learn to pronounce R as 'Crown', 'Queen', or 'King' automatically.

I plan to write about other legal peculiarities in the future, for example 'v' and 'judgment'. I will update this conclusion with links when I have posted on these topics (edit: V v Judgments).

3. Further Reading

Glanville Williams, in Learning the Law, lists the UK's previous queens and kings. Williams' book is worth reading by law students at any stage--the earlier the better, though.

Created: 29 September 2013. Version 1.1: 11 October 2013.

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