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Why lawyers should mind their p’s and q’s (and punctuation, too)



We’ve probably all seen a court filing that we thought needed an editor. But an English teacher?

That was the scenario facing a Florida lawyer after he filed an amended complaint in a federal civil rights case against a hospital. In their motion to dismiss, defense counsel wrote in part:

Plaintiff’s allegations are so muddled and unintelligible that the Hospital can barely parse out his allegations. Sentences are missing punctuation; there are run-on and incomplete sentences; much is incomprehensible.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga denied the motion but put the plaintiff’s attorney on notice in her ruling:

The Court notes Plaintiff’s proposed Second Amended Complaint is replete with grammatical errors, including improper punctuation, misspelling of words, incorrect conjugation of verbs, and lack of apostrophes when required for possessive adjectives; sentence fragments; and nonsensical sentences. The proposed Second Amended Complaint is also an eyesore, with its formatting errors and spaces.

And before another amended complaint could be submitted, Altonaga said it must be certified that it was “reviewed and approved by a teacher of the English language.”

The lawsuit, perhaps not surprisingly, was voluntarily dismissed a few days later.

(HT: Above the Law)

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