Law School Discussion

"Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?

Thistle

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Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2008, 08:06:41 AM »
i use mine to define doctrines, etc, in briefs.  i dont care to cite to the online version.

UMKb

Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #21 on: August 04, 2008, 09:54:38 AM »
Someone gave me their old Pocket 2nd edition. Can I use it or do I need the Pocket 3rd edition if I'm going go that route?

Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #22 on: August 04, 2008, 09:55:24 AM »
It's free on Westlaw

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Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #23 on: August 05, 2008, 07:28:46 PM »
useless. I dont even think that the dictionary is considered a secondary authority. The best definition of words are in the cases. And that is what you are expected to cite anyway. When you are studying, horn books and treatises provide other sources of definitions that are useful.

Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #24 on: August 05, 2008, 07:38:49 PM »
I used it for the first week of school and never picked it up again after that.

That's because it only took you a week to learn everything!   :o

Thistle

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Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #25 on: August 05, 2008, 08:07:24 PM »
useless. I dont even think that the dictionary is considered a secondary authority. The best definition of words are in the cases. And that is what you are expected to cite anyway. When you are studying, horn books and treatises provide other sources of definitions that are useful.


ummm, yeah, its a secondary authority.  and very useful when there are NO cases that define a particular word, concept, or doctrine; or there are split decisions.  i have been asked more than once by judges at both local and appellate level during motion hearings or argument how black's defined something.

ps.  dont tell me what i'm expected to cite.


Matthies

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Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #26 on: August 05, 2008, 08:27:28 PM »
useless. I dont even think that the dictionary is considered a secondary authority. The best definition of words are in the cases. And that is what you are expected to cite anyway. When you are studying, horn books and treatises provide other sources of definitions that are useful.


ummm, yeah, its a secondary authority.  and very useful when there are NO cases that define a particular word, concept, or doctrine; or there are split decisions.  i have been asked more than once by judges at both local and appellate level during motion hearings or argument how black's defined something.

ps.  dont tell me what i'm expected to cite.



Agreed, and under the plain meaning cannon of statutory interpretation its primary authority. Hell there have been law review articles dedicated to how prevalent citing to dictionaries is in court opinions. See Look it Up (Harvard Law Review 1994) documenting like 600 instances of the USSC citing to dictionaries in opinions. I mean you canít make it through a semesters class that has a statute involved without reading at least 2-3 opinions that cite to Blacks definition as the meaning of a word the issue turns on in a case.

Edit: heck I just did a headnote only search for cases in the last 12 months on lexis-nexis for headnotes citing to Blackís and it maxed out the hits it would return. 

skeeball

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Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #27 on: August 05, 2008, 08:48:01 PM »
Buy a cheapo paperback edition. The Westlaw version is a pain in the ASS to use. The profs appreciate it when you look things up in the cases that you don't understand, so you don't look like a lazy person when they ask about it.

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Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #28 on: August 05, 2008, 10:14:12 PM »
useless. I dont even think that the dictionary is considered a secondary authority. The best definition of words are in the cases. And that is what you are expected to cite anyway. When you are studying, horn books and treatises provide other sources of definitions that are useful.


ummm, yeah, its a secondary authority.  and very useful when there are NO cases that define a particular word, concept, or doctrine; or there are split decisions.  i have been asked more than once by judges at both local and appellate level during motion hearings or argument how black's defined something.

ps.  dont tell me what i'm expected to cite.



The OP was talking about LAW SCHOOL. That is what I was referring to. And in LAW SCHOOL, you will need to go above and beyond the 10 word definition in Blacks dictionary for briefs, journal articles, etc. That's if you want a good grade. In many cases, words are defined differently in each jurisdiction, and a cookie cutter definition from Black's isn't going to help you.

And when you can't find a case in your jurisdiction that defines a word, then that is when you look to other similar jurisdictions to see how they defined the word. Then you use that jurisdiction's definition as persuasive secondary authority. But in most cases, there will be a seminal treatise, legal primer, or Restatement that is followed and respected by lawyers in the field. So when you can't find a word defined in a case, there will be many more sources to wade through even before you pick up a Black's dictionary.   

Re: "Black's Law Dictionary" - Useful?
« Reply #29 on: August 05, 2008, 11:29:22 PM »
It's available on Westlaw. If you like hard copies, then get one. I maybe used it twice for class, but I used it a few times this summer.

YMMV