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March 17, 2009

First Circuit affirms sentence of "87-month term of immurement"

There is nothing especially ground-breaking about the First Circuit's sentencing work in US v. Vargas, No. 08-1377 (1st Cir. March 17, 2009) (available here), but a word choice in the opening paragraph alone makes the opinion blog-worthy: 

Defendant-appellant Victor Vargas pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine.  See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846.  The district court sentenced him to an 87-month term of immurement.

Other words of note in the Vargas opinion include "anent" and "aposematic" and "asseverates" and "boon" and "congeners."  These terms, in addition to informing knowledgeable readers of the author of this opinion, lead me to wonder if Mr. Vargas has access to a dictionary sufficient to help him understand fully the decision which affirms his sentence.

March 17, 2009 at 03:08 PM | Permalink


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Is it really a good idea to use a word with a second definition of

2: to build into a wall ; especially : to entomb in a wall

from m-w and

Immurement is a form of execution where a person is walled up within a building and left to die from starvation or dehydration.

from wikipedia

Posted by: . | Mar 17, 2009 3:23:13 PM

Selya trying to be Buckley. How cute.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 17, 2009 3:42:46 PM

I can't stand this kind of legal writing. It reeks of snooty intellectualism (and makes the writer sound like a pompous son-of-a-gun).

Posted by: AFPD | Mar 17, 2009 4:17:35 PM

Ha. I clicked to post "without looking, this has to be Judge Selya", but federalist already let the cat out of the bag :)

It seems to me that, when people's minds immediately jump to you whenever a multi-syllabic, inaccessible word is used in place of another perfectly good word that the average person can understand, it may be time to slow your rhetorical roll.

Posted by: Observer | Mar 17, 2009 4:26:35 PM

In the criminal law, any lawyer utterance, especially laws or appellate decisions, with a reading level above sixth grade has failed to give notice. It should be void for that reason. The lawyer gibberish is French in origin and promotes lawyer rent seeking. Only those with the money may hire translators.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 17, 2009 4:30:16 PM

This comic comes to mind.

Posted by: Someone | Mar 17, 2009 5:34:53 PM

Does anyone know if there is a good dissenting or concurring opinion that takes a nice shot at Selya's "style?" I'd love to see that. Perhaps a short concurring statement: I concur in everything but the words "anent" and "aposematic" and "asseverates" and "boon" and "congeners", as I have no idea what they mean. Btw. 1st cir. practice tip. When quoting from Selya in a brief or motion, use brackets liberally.

Posted by: DM | Mar 18, 2009 12:37:56 AM

DM, Having read every 1st circuit opinion, I can't think of any one. But, really, there should be. He is chuckled at behind his back by his fellow judges.

And, yes... you can't quote him, because it makes you look like an idiot.

What is ironic and sad is that he teaches a course on litigation and tells kids how to be a good litigator and write clearly.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 19, 2009 9:46:36 AM

I have collected a golconda (wealth) of Selya nuggets over the years. Here are a few of the choicer ones: "crocodility"(a sophistical mode of arguing); "gallimaufry" (a hodgepodge); "logomachy" (a controversy marked by verbiage); and "salmagundi" (a heterogeneous mixture or potpourri). I must say, much of what he says does little to disambiguate the nuances of the cases. But you gotta give the guy props for this excellent nugget, referring to the government's advocacy for the admission of certain other-crimes evidence as "a ham-fisted effort to put lipstick on the propensity pig."

Posted by: Mick Mo | Mar 20, 2009 9:08:14 AM

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