Legal Latin for newbies

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 01:32
Legal Latin for beginners
 
One of the results of the ongoing debate about the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program is that it has attracted flocks of lawyers spouting legal terms the public can barely understand.
 
It's like somebody kicked a huge legal beehive over and a great angry swarm of bees flew out, all of them buzzing in Latin.
 
Lawyers, judges, law students, fresh law grads and legal experts have surrounded the Constitution, fiercely arguing among themselves and attacking any non-lawyer who dares come close, warding off the masses with high-level law degree wands casting Latin bolts. Some of them sound like high priests or adepts muttering incantations that resemble Harry Potter spells. Nobody is sure if they're trying to impress the public or mumbling enchantments to raise the unholy dead (i.e., Marcos). For all we know one of the enchantments is a "Latin Force field of Repulsion."
 
This is particularly hard on most journalists, whose knowledge of Latin is close to zero (nullus maximus) and whose range of professional expressions is limited to phrases like "I'm not finished yet", or "but I sent it already!", or "I'll pay that later" or "one for the road." Just about the only Latin expression they understand is "et cetera" and how often does that come out in legal arguments? We're guessing the lawyers make sure they avoid using it, to prevent anybody from accidentally understanding and following the discussion.
 
So as part of our strict and ongoing commitment to public service, we're publishing this brief list of legal Latin terms and sayings in the hope that this will enrich the discussion and help journalists understand what's going on as they take one more for the road.
 
Argumentum ad hominem - "I'm talking to you, bub"
 
Argumentum ad ignorantiam - "my opponent is talking"
 
Curia advisari vult - "Please heal my adviser, he's a vulture"
 
Dura lex, sed lex - "Your condom is defective"
 
Ex curia - ex convict
 
Factum - a naughty suggeston
 
In loco parentis - "your folks were crazy"
 
Jus naturale - fresh orange squeeze
 
Locus standi - upright insect
 
Malum in se - "there's a sale in the mall"
 
Malum prohibitum - "mall closed"
 
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - "Who gets custody of the kid?"
 
Res ipsa loquitur - "I did not get the joke"
 

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