Law students are used to unfamiliar words. Words like in forma pauperis, dicta, and de novo make you sound like a lawyer. But as our eyes get blurry and bloodshot reading opinion after opinion, we should recognize what these words actually mean. Not the formal, Black’s Law Dictionary meaning, but what the words’ “plain meaning.” Here’s a sampling:
- Dicta: This is judges’ way of saying, “Just saying.”
- In Forma Pauperis: Don’t do this, you’re a lawyer. Most of these cases are without merit, you should know that.
- Pro Bono: Depending on your type of law, your employer, and (as a student) your work schedule, you may or may not be able to do any of this.
- Dismissed with(out) Prejudice: Doesn’t mean what you think it means. Court is likely not dismissing your case because it hates lawyers. In fact, it welcomes lawyers like you all the time.
- Actual Malice: In defamation law, this doesn’t mean “malice” at all. So, it’s not actual malice, is it?
- De Novo: Judges are saying, “Let’s have a do-over.”
- Orginialism: Out with the new, stick to the old
- Textualism: Stick to the four corners of the documents, also Scalia is my homeboy.
- Totality of the Circumstances: Let’s lawyers have a fuzzy test to have room to argue. Whoever came up with this phrase deserves a medal.