Wednesday, January 04, 2006

People v. Phillips (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 3, 2006)

I'm not a huge fan of people -- including judges -- who unnecessarily use big words I don't understand just to prove they're smarter than me. I mean, how big of a challenge is that, anyway? There are tons of words I've never heard of before; indeed, whole languages I don't know. So stop picking on me.

That said, I'm just fine with Justice Hull using the word "caliginous" in this opinion. Did I have to look that word up? Yep. Sure did. But, after I found out what it meant, did the use of that term seem to make sense, given the context. Yes. And since he didn't use a ton of other fancy-pants words throughout his opinion, I was totally fine with having to do the extra work. My fault, not his.

I have only one critical -- admittedly marginal -- comment. When Justice Hull was running to be retained, he listed as his "Top Priority if Elected" -- right after "'[to] follow the law" -- to be penning "[a]ppellate opinions [that are] . . . understandable and timely." Well, I gotta say, if your objective is to write opinions that the common man can understand, it's probably not the greatest idea to rely on words like "caliginous". Rather than help clarify things, ten-cent words like that often instead make the opinion -- dare I say it -- a bit more caliginous.

P.S. - On a lark, I looked up every other American judicial opinion in which the term "caliginous" is used. There are ten of them. Guess who wrote a full 40% of these opinions? Conscientious readers of this blog will probably be able to guess the answer. Right. Judge Fernandez.