The law is an S’ – or an s’s

In a footnote in a recent opinion (PDF), U.S. District Judge J. Fredrick Motz weighs in on one of the big legal issues of our day, something that divides the highest court in the land. Yes, that’s right: the correct possessive form of a proper noun ending in S.

In a case involving a man named Darron Goods, Motz makes Goods’ last name possessive by simply adding an apostrophe, not an apostrophe and an S. In the footnote, he comes down in favor of a “hybrid approach” to the “S or no S” dilemma, adding just an apostrophe when the final S sounds like a Z but an apostrophe and an S when the final S sounds like an S. (I do apologize for the ridiculousness of the previous sentence.) Motz says the hybrid approach “has the virtue of marrying the written word and the spoken tongue and contributes to the growth of English as a living language, unconstrained by archaic and inflexible rules.”

What do you think of the judge’s approach? Is it a sensible way to keep flexibility in the language or a road to utter grammar mayhem? If this case goes to the 4th Circuit and that court’s opinion follows Goods’ name with an apostrophe and an S, does that constitute binding precedent?

I tend to say there should be a consistent no-S approach, but then again, I’m part of the generation(s) that didn’t really learn much grammar in school, so maybe my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. I just like the way names look without that extra S. It’s more aerodynamic.

For what it’s worth, my Associated Press Stylebook says no S.

CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Law blog round-up

Good afternoon!

  • Terrapin Run opponents aren’t saying how much they spent in total to fight the giant development, but they do say they owe more than $11,000 in legal fees, the Cumberland Times-News reports.
  • Book of Joe links to a Post story from yesterday about Facebook bullying at a Bethesda high school, referencing the fact that the legislature has just added computer bullying to the state’s definition of bullying. I guess with every new technology, kids will figure out how to use it to be mean to each other.
  • This law firm is brought to you by the letter V.
  • That appearance at UB last week didn’t satisfy your deep craving for all things Scalia? Watch the “brilliant and combative” justice’s 60 Minutes appearance. Thanks to Lawbeat for the link.
  • Does your firm have someone in charge of client satisfaction?
  • BusinessWeek has a great story from the other day on an Oregon woman fighting the RIAA on what she and her lawyer say is the ridiculous charge that she shared copyrighted music online. Hat tip: Slashdot.

CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

This week in Maryland Lawyer

Can lawyer layoffs happen here? Pick one: (a) They already are; (b) Yes, it’s just a matter of time; (c) Maybe, but it won’t be as bad as it is elsewhere; or (d) all of the above.

As Caryn Tamber writes in Maryland Lawyer, the answer depends on whom you ask.

Also in today’s issue, Brendan Kearney previews the death penalty case to be heard by the Court of Appeals. Lawyers for Jody Lee Miles know their argument has failed before, but they hope a 2007 Supreme Court ruling will make a difference — or that Judge Alan M. Wilner’s replacement, Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., will.

Then there’s the $2 million verdict in a surgical med-mal case; the latest battle in the war over Piney Run; and the attorneys’ fee award against a Bethesda woman who tried to have her husband killed during their divorce.


Want to blog about any of these topics, or suggest others we should be covering? Fire away…

BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor/Law