Two articles on legalese in court: from the ABA Journal, RITUALISTIC BOILERPLATE – Simplicity Beats Legalisms in Communicating With the Jury, BY JAMES W. McELHANEY:
bq. Directing your attention to the 14th of August, 2002, I ask what, if anything, you did on that occasion? Instead of starting a question with Directing your attention to a particular date, just tell the witness you are going to ask some questions about that day.
Then get rid of if anythingan annoying habit that prosecutors all over the United States have developed on the thought it keeps a question from being leading. But its unnecessary boilerplate because the question isnt leading in the first place, and if it were, what, if anything wouldnt fix it.
Now your question sounds natural: Mr. Johnson, we are going to start by talking about Aug. 14 last year. What did you do that day?
Then the Los Angeles Times (registration required but free) on July 18, has an article by Jean Guccione, ‘Relief Coming for Jurors Ill at Ease With Legalese –
A state panel OKs simple civil jury instructions. Criminal courts are next.’ New California jury instructions – example:
bq. Existing: ” ‘Preponderance of the evidence’ means evidence that has more convincing force than that opposed to it. If the evidence is so evenly balanced that you are unable to say that the evidence on either side of an issue preponderates, your finding on that issue must be against the party who had the burden of proving it.”
bq. New: “When I tell you that a party must prove something, I mean that the party must persuade you, by the evidence presented in court, that what he or she is trying to prove is more likely to be true than not true. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the burden of proof.’ “