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2 Legal Writing: J. Legal Writing Inst. 81 (1996)
Doctrine of the Last Antecedent: The Mystifying Morass of Ambiguous Modifiers

handle is hein.journals/jlwriins2 and id is 87 raw text is: Doctrine of the Last Antecedent:
The Mystifying Morass of Ambiguous
Terri LeClercq*
Students enter law school to learn the law, not to learn to
write - or so many of them believe. They have yet to appreciate
that law is language and, therefore, for law to be clear, the lan-
guage of the law must be clear. Even those who seem to appreciate
the law/language connection often do not see, until an instructor
points it out, how difficult it can be to achieve clarity using the
multifaceted English language. It is important, therefore, for legal
writing faculty to offer their students a glimpse into the legal com-
plications' that sentence structure can create.
Consider the following example: A probationary police officer
walks into an attorney's office, believing that he has been unfairly
passed over for promotion. He had gained some weight while under
the stress of taking and passing the three tests required for promo-
tion to police officer. Instead of receiving the promotion he be-
lieved he deserved, however, he was turned down by a committee
that said he failed to meet one of the four requirements for
To qualify for police officer, the candidate must be within the
weight range for his/her height, score 85 on the first test bat-
tery, score 90 on the special placement battery, and achieve
an 85% accuracy score on the shooting range WITHIN SIX
Although the police rookie's weight was within the weight
range when he applied for officer, he now weighs too much. Does
* Terri LeClercq has a Ph.D. in English and teaches at the University of Texas at
Austin. She has written Guide to Legal Writing Style and Expert Legal Writing, plus nu-
merous articles.
I Students may be unaware of the impact of statutory interpretation on our court sys-
tem. In the first four months of 1995, for example, the United States Supreme Court issued
seventeen decisions: 14 involved statutory interpretation; the other five dealt with criminal
law and procedure. See William Banks, At the Halfway Point, 81 A.B.A. J. 50 (1995).

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