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07 June 2008


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Jerry Stephens

Judge Selya has long been one of the better writers on the federal bench. I would agree that, on occasion, his word choice may get in the way of easy reading and comprehension. But he's never boring. I once had the chance to visit with him about some of the phrases he included in his writing. He had written, in one his opinions, the phrase "more cry than wool" (USA v. Ortiz-Alarcon, 917 F2d 651). Judge Selya mentioned that the phrase was just one he had picked up earlier in his life. He also mentioned that he had also used the variant phrase, "more bleat than wool." He has also written of "legislation not created in a vaccuum" and "singing a tune the way the courts want." Judge Selya's conclusion to all this is just that he enjoys a little creative writing. By the way, there was an interesting article about Judge Selya in the March 27, 1992 "New York Times." In that article, he was quoted as saying that "I don't go looking for unusual words to use, but if it pops in my mind I don't withhold it simply because it may not be in common usage."

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