14 December 2018

Judge complains about 'rambling, waffling and warbling' in court

No need to call me 'learned' says English court appeal judge in call for clear communication in appeals.

An English court appeal judge has complained about the use of ‘archaic syntax’ and the passive voice in appeal hearings.


Lady Justice Anne Rafferty urged clearer communication, saying such language must disappear from grounds of appeal, which she said are too 'rambling, waffling and warbling.' In a speech at a criminal law review, lady justice Rafferty, chair of the Judicial College, pondered the best 'control mechanism' to cut word counts, saying 'is it tough criminal procedure rule vocabulary? Is it a court of appeal criminal division judgment or three, from the top, reiterating disapprobation? Is it a criminal practice direction in firm tones? All the above?' She said that such phrases as 'it is thought', 'it is arguable' and 'it is suggested' have reached the end of their natural life. She offered her own example of editing by chopping a 162-word sample submission down to 89 words.

Spot on

Lady justice Rafferty explained, ‘in a skeleton argument I can read about the learned judge up to sixty times. Speaking entirely for myself life will still hold meaning for me if I am referred to as the judge not the learned judge. Similarly, the author's respect for the judge's efforts below doesn't need to be repeated fifteen times let alone made more profound when it becomes ‘with the greatest respect’.' She compared her own sentencing remarks of over 22 pages taking 34 minutes for a straightforward GBH with Mr Justice Irwin handing down a murder sentence which took ‘eight minutes of pure gold to say everything necessary.’ She quoted Mark Twain saying ‘I had to write a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short,’ saying ‘you might think he was spot on;' though perhaps she could have cut that down to ‘’he was spot on.’