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  #1  
Old 02-27-2003, 04:06 PM
Earl of Sandwhich Earl of Sandwhich is offline
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"Your Honor, and if it pleases the court."

What does this expression mean?
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  #2  
Old 02-27-2003, 04:20 PM
Kalt Kalt is offline
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it's actually "and may it please the court." It's an old-fashioned way of basically saying "i hope you (the court) like what I am about to tell you."

It's the standard way to begin oral argument.
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  #3  
Old 02-27-2003, 04:20 PM
Robb Robb is offline
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It's a way for a lawyer ask a judge (or judges in an appeal court) whether the lawyer has permission to begin.
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Old 02-27-2003, 04:39 PM
brianmelendez brianmelendez is offline
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I have heard it in both forms ("if it please the court" and "may it please the court"), which are substantively equivalent. From Black's Law Dictionary:
Quote:
May it please the court. An introductory phrase that lawyers use when first addressing a court, esp. when presenting oral argument to an appellate court.
And from A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage:
Quote:
may it please the court is the standard introductory phrase that lawyers use when speaking to an appellate court. Some people call it legalese, but it is not really in that category. The phrase helps establish a tone of civility and respect in an oral argument.
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  #5  
Old 02-27-2003, 05:13 PM
Cliffy Cliffy is offline
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As a lawyer approaching a court, you're a supplicant, so you better, you know, supplicate.

--Cliffy
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Old 02-27-2003, 06:36 PM
Billdo Billdo is offline
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It's a slightly more formal and professional way of saying: "Yo Judgeykins, listen to me."
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  #7  
Old 02-27-2003, 06:58 PM
Nanoda Nanoda is offline
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Seems like something from the era of powdered wigs... but then I always thought that was the best part of litigation. Shoulda kept them and ditched the rest.
Does it ever not please the court? And what happens then?
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Old 02-27-2003, 06:59 PM
Robb Robb is offline
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Quote:
Does it ever not please the court? And what happens then?
You wait until it does.
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  #9  
Old 02-27-2003, 08:16 PM
Kalt Kalt is offline
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Nanoda: malpractice suits and possibly contempt (prison and/or fines).
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  #10  
Old 02-27-2003, 08:30 PM
rowrrbazzle rowrrbazzle is offline
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Of course, when you use the word "please" when politely asking for something, that's just short for "If it pleases you".
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  #11  
Old 02-28-2003, 10:50 PM
moriah moriah is offline
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That sort of impersonal talk is not just old-time speak, it is purposely done in order to keep personalities out of what is supposed to be an impartial procedure.

It's like Robert's Rules of Order, where the chair of a meeting would say "the delegate from Timbuktu is recognized and has the floor." It takes away the breezy informality of, "Go ahead, Suzy, I'm all ears for you, sweetie."

In court, apart from examination of witnesses, everyone addresses the judge only and they do so politely, taking personalities out of the equation. This keeps the rival attorneys from shouting, "Is not, dumbass!" "Is too, jerkbird!" at each other.

The phrase "may it please the court" shortens what would be the longer exchange:

"Your honor, may I be recognized to address the court?"

Yes, please address the court"


But, by saying, "may it please the court..." and just going ahead, it saves having to go through that exchange every time an attorney wants to say something or make a motion.

Peace.
-----------------
May it please the court, I wish to present the motion on behalf of my client that we recess for ten minutes and be called to order outside because it's such a nice day.
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  #12  
Old 03-01-2003, 07:57 PM
quasar quasar is offline
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Is this a formal requisite (kinda like phrasing your answer in the form of a question in Jeopardy)? Must this custom be always observed? Is it considered disrespectful not to do so?

Cheers,

quasar
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  #13  
Old 03-01-2003, 08:11 PM
Enderw24 Enderw24 is offline
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Yes, it is considered disrespectful not to do it. Just as it's disrespectful to touch a judge's bench, to approach a witness without asking for permission, and to address the judge as anything other than "judge" or "your honor."
Some will let you get away with it. Some just don't care one way or the other. Some will be adamant that the customs of respect within a courtroom are maintained. If you don't know, it's best to err on the side of respect until the judge informs you of a different procedure in his or her courtroom.
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  #14  
Old 03-01-2003, 08:14 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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In my experience, it's not uniformly used. Depends very much on the level of court and the personal customs of each counsel. Some are more comfortable with a formal, slightly archaic beginning; others use a less formal, more modern introduction.

Personally, I like it, especially in appellate work. I think it sets a good opening tone, plus having a standard opening helps to qualm nerves (mine) when I address a panel of appellate judges. (And of course here in Canada, where we gown for appearences in the higher courts, it doesn't seem that archaic. )

All that's really needed is a level of politeness and mutual respect; how you do that as counsel is really a matter of personal style.
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  #15  
Old 03-01-2003, 08:26 PM
Dr_Paprika Dr_Paprika is offline
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Does this phrase date back to times when a monarch and his counsel made decisions?
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  #16  
Old 03-01-2003, 08:39 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Could be; I don't know. But, I think you mean "council" (i.e. - a group of advisers), not "counsel" (a barrister).
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