Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Ghastly Grammar

I suppose that it’s not surprising how often poor grammar accompanies poor thinking.

In reading a (successful) candidate for addition to my This Day in Liberal Judical Activism series, I ran across this monstrosity: “As Bazurto lied there on his back, he made feeble attempts to reach for the gun that was tucked into the front of his pants.”

Yes, Sidney R. Thomas, the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, evidently doesn’t know that lay is the past tense of lie (when, that is, the verb is being used in the sense above, rather than in the sense of to tell a falsehood). Nor do any of his law clerks who reviewed the opinion. Whether Stephen Reinhardt, who joined Thomas’s opinion, and his law clerks don’t know or instead simply don’t care is less clear, but either way ought to be embarrassing.


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