The Language of Law School: Learning to "Think like a Lawyer"

By Elizabeth Mertz | Go to book overview

4
Learning to Read Like a Lawyer: Text,
Context, and Linguistic Ideology

"Mr. Karlin!" Perini cried sharply.

Nearby, I heard a tremendous thud.…

"Mr. Karlin," Perini said, ambling toward my side of
the room, "why don't you tell us about the case of Hurley v.
Eddingfield?"

Karlin already had his notebook open. His voice was
quavering.

"Plaintiff's intestate," he began. He got no further.

"What does that mean?" Perini cried from across the room.
He began marching fiercely up the aisle toward Karlin. "In-tes-
tate," he said, "in-tes-tate. What is that? Something to do with
the stomach? Is this an anatomy class, Mr. Karlin?" Perini's
voice had become shrill with a note of open mockery and at the
last word people burst out laughing, louder than at anything
Perini had said before.

He was only five or six feet from Karlin now. Karlin stared
up at him and blinked and finally said, "No."

"No, I didn't think so," Perini said. "What if the word
was 'testate'? What would that be? Would we have moved
from the stomach"—Perini waved a hand and there was
more loud laughter when he leeringly asked his question—
"elsewhere?"

"I think," Karlin said weakly, "that if the word was
'testate' it would mean he had a will."

"And 'intestate' that he didn't have a will. I see." Perini
wagged his head. "And who is this 'he,' Mr. Karlin?"

Karlin was silent. He shifted in his seat as Perini stared
at him. Hands had shot up across the room. Perini called rap-
idly on two or three people who gave various names—Hurley,
Eddingfield, the plaintiff. Finally someone said that the case
didn't say.

"The case doesn't say!" Perini cried, marching down the
aisle. "The case does not say. Read the case. Read the case!

Carefully!"1

-43-

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