English judge stuffy corporate

NOT how you want the public to view our courts.

“Comes now the blogger.”

Odd, right? Completely foreign?

Now you know how lay people feel when they have the misfortune to wander into an American courtroom when lawyers channeling Shakespeare decide to hold forth. Methinks it’s annoying.

That’s why a recent news story out of Tucson is so refreshing. As the Daily Star reports, a new project at the Superior Court for Pima County strives to make the legal process understandable to the public.

The project was spearheaded by Commissioner Dean Christoffel. In his job, he saw people “struggling to fill out forms dealing with divorce, child custody issues, child support, paternity and spousal maintenance.”

So Commissioner Christoffel sought out University of Arizona students “who could rewrite dozens of instructions provided to people representing themselves.”

Among the experts who helped with the “Simpla Phi Lex” project was Barbara Atwood, the Mary Anne Richey Professor Emerita of Law at the UA Law School.

The complete story is here. (And the University’s story is here.)

Here at Arizona Attorney, I still smile every time I re-read the two articles we were privileged to publish that Dean had written. (Read “A Ripping Good Yarn Told With Verve” and “Algebraic Apoplexy.”) This is a lawyer and court official who knows how to write!

Maybe it’s my own fascination, but we run a good number of articles about improving legal writing. Last month, we published a news story about an initiative to simplify the Justice Court rules. And our February issue had a cover story urging clarity rather than ornate language.

Congratulations to Dean Christoffel, as well as everyone affiliated with this new great project.