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lincoln.jpegIn law it is a good policy to never plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you can not.

Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). Letter to Usher F. Linder, Feb. 20, 1848. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1, p. 453, Rutgers University Press (1953, 1990).

libertybell.jpgIf you're not otherwise occupied with traditional potato salad, fireworks, or blowing anvils, this isn't a bad day to re-read the Declaration of Independence. We did, and we found this paragraph, #4 of the many grievances listed by the colonists against the King:

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

That the colonists should consider a complaint about informational distance to be on a par with the dissolution of the legislatures, imposition of unfair taxes, and the lack of a judiciary is revealing. These days, the de facto depository of our public records is the Internet, no longer physically distant but perhaps equally fatiguing in other ways. Outmoded publishing policies and practices -- and a failure to recognize the public need for legal information -- keep us at a remove from our public legal information that is greater than it should be. We're a click away in theory, but the practical distance is much greater.

And as to those rumors: of course this isn't the first time we've read the Declaration in its entirety. And we certainly did not get kicked out of Mrs. Nungezer's seventh-grade social studies class that day for passing notes (an early form of experimentation with packet-switched networks).

And now we're off to shoot bottle rockets and light sparklers. Happy Fourth.

lovealamode.jpegThe law is a sort of hocus-pocus science, that smiles in yer face while it picks yer pocket: and the glorious uncertainty of it is of more use to the professors than the justice of it.

Charles Macklin (1690–1797), Irish actor, dramatist. Sir Archy MacSarcasm, in Love à la Mode, act 2, sc. 1 (1759). (In 1735 Macklin quarrelled with a fellow actor named Hallam and accidentally killed the man by thrusting his cane through Hallam's eye. He was tried for murder, conducted his own defense, and won an acquittal.)

abusediscretion.jpegA standard of review used by appellate courts to review decisions of lower courts. A judgment will be termed an abuse of discretion if the adjudicator has failed to exercise sound, reasonable, and legal decision-making skills (something that never happens here the LII).

See, e.g. Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 US 277 (1995) and General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 US 136 (1997).