September 5, 2011
THE ABRIDGED DEVIL'S DICTIONARY FOR LAW STUDENTS
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, and Memoirs, edited by S. T. Joshi (New York: Library of America, 2011) (From The Devil's Dictionary: "APPEAL, v. t. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw." Id. at 433, 445. "HABEAS CORPUS, n. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime." Id. at 506. "INJUSTICE, n. A burden which of all those that we load upon others and carry ourselves is lightest in the hands and heaviest upon the back." Id. at 529. "IMPARTIAL, adj. Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions." Id. at 521. "JUSTICE, n. A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizens as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service." Id. at 536. "LAW, n. Once Law was sitting on the bench, / And Mercy knelt a-weeping. / 'Clear out!' he cried, 'disordered wench! / Nor come before me creeping. / Upon your knees if you appear, / 'Tis plain you have no standing here.' // Then Justice came. His Honor cried: / 'Your status?--devil seize you!' / 'Amica curiae,' she replied-- / 'Friend of the court, so please you.' / 'Begone!' he shouted--'there's the door-- / I never saw your face before!' G. J." Id. at 541. "LAWFUL, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction." "LAWYER, n., ONE skilled in circumvention of the law." Id. at 541. "LITIGANT, n., A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones." "LITIGATION, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out as a sausage." Id. at 546. "PRECEDENT, n. In Law, a previous decision, rule or practice which, in the absence of a definite statute, has whatever force and authority a Judge may choose to give it, thereby greatly simplifying his task of doing as he pleases. As there are precedents for everything, he has only to ignore those that make against his interest and accentuate those in the line of his desire, Invention of the precedent elevates the trial-at-law from the low estate of a fortuitous ordeal to the noble attitude of a dirigible arbitrament." Id. at 585. "PROOF, n. Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to that of only one." Id. at 589.).