3 October 2013

V v Judgments

This post explains the pronunciation and spelling of two legal peculiarities, 'v' and 'judgment'. A variation of the latter is noted. I conclude with some remarks about how oppressive these conventions can seem to law students.

1. V

In the UK the 'v' used to separate the names in cases is pronounced 'and' or 'against'. Therefore R v Hughes is pronounced 'The Crown and Hughes' or 'The Crown against Hughes'.

According to most modern style guides that I have read, there is no need to put a full stop after 'v'. So prefer 'R v Hughes' to 'R v. Hughes'.

As far as I know, it is acceptable to pronounce 'v' as 'versus' in the United States. Doing so in the UK is unconventional and will probably annoy your tutors, and whoever marks your spoken assessments, which may affect your grade.

Law students will soon notice that pronouncing 'v' as 'and' is quite pervasive. You may find that you start to write 'v' when 'and' or an ampersand (ie an '&') is required, especially when writing quickly in exams or lectures.

2. Judgment

The decisions in case law are called 'judgments'--without an 'e'. The word is pronounced the same, but 'judgement' is considered wrong. 'Judgement' is correctly spelled for (almost) any other use, for example 'ethical judgements'.

Decisions in the House of Lords or Supreme Court are called 'opinions', not judgments. An easy way to remember this is to note that Lords and Ladies give 'speeches' about the law and its content:
  • In Lady Hale's speech…
  • Lord Hope opines…

3. Conclusion

There are many other legal peculiarities that initially seem awkward. They soon become familiar and before long help immerse readers into the legal world. Lawyers speak in technical language because the subject matter often requires it.

There are arguments against this practice, just as there are arguments against using Latin, Greek, or French words in law. But however rebellious you feel, however moronic the conventions appear, they still exist.

Conventions such as quaint pronunciations and spellings are easy to learn. Students would spend their time better by learning them quickly rather than being angry at their presence. There will be time to deprecate them later, along with all the flamboyant legal writing you have to read.

If you are ardently against these peculiarities and verbose writing techniques, you can always rebel by personally writing with alternative vocabulary. Individual attempts to write about law in simpler, everyday language are more likely to change the way law is written and spoken about than ranting at tutors about the injustices of having to learn strange legal details. Just be sure your prose remains accurate.

Created: 3 October 2013. Version 1.0.

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