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25 June 2009 8:05 AM

Simplify the Law!

On February 22, 1914, The New York Times reported:


------- AIM TO END CONFUSION --------

Eminent layers and educators who have been seeking for some method of simplifying the study of law and its administration met at the Bar Association yesterday afternoon and took the first important steps toward the organization of the American Academy of Jurisprudence. For more than three years the project has been discussed...

Late last night ex-Judge Alton B. Parker talked with reporters...He was asked if the plan was not to prepare some condensed code like the Code Napoleon. He replied that such a code prepared for use in this country would very comfortably fit into a man's pocket. Then he was asked if the idea was not to print between the covers of certain books the laws of all the States relating to any particular subject so that long and laborious search would not be necessary to find the law on the matter in any State. To this question he replied that the whole matter could be summed up by saying that the aim was to promote the science of jurisprudence and the improvement of the law and its administration...

Chairman James De Witt Andrews... asserted that the natural tendency of the law was toward confusion, contradiction, and uncertainty, and that the practical function of jurisprudence was to give simplicity and harmony to the body of laws.
A lovely project. Evidently they failed.


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Comments (1)

Ryan Davidson

No, actually, they didn't. As a matter of fact, the twentieth century has seen one of the most dramatic simplifications and rationalizations of a body of law in history. It was efforts like those described here that gave rise to the promulgation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1938. The Rules did away with the arcane, bewildering, and highly exacting system of writs which dated back to the late Middle Ages and replaced them with a single form: the civil action. The rules were such a success that various actors followed up with the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, and on the state level, the Model Penal Code and Uniform Commercial Code. Those are just some examples of the most successful uniform, modernizing laws, but there are others.

Law today certainly isn't simple, but let's give credit where credit is due.

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