Comes now, herein, pursuant to. These are just a few of the many terms, or legalese, lawyers regularly employ that keep pro se litigants guessing. What do the words mean? Do I really need them in my motions? How will the judge react if I use them wrong?
First, not all lawyers use words like these. Many see them as arcane and unnecessary; the kind of legalese that gets in the way of plain speech. The best legal writing, in fact, is in plain English not legalese. You can make your writing clearer by either eliminating these words or substituting alternative words for them.
Still, arcane words and phrases are so commonly used and accepted in the legal field that it’s easier to include them than find suitable substitutes, especially when every lawyer in your case is employing them.
So, let’s take a peek at comes now, hereby, hereinafter, pursuant to, and wherefore to understand their meaning and identify possible substitutes for them.
The comes now statement appears in the introductory sentence of a motion or pleading. It summarizes the who, what, and why of your document, setting the stage for what comes next. In other words, it prepares the judge and your opponent for the argument you’re about to make or position you will take.
Here’s and example. The first paragraph in a motion might begin with “COMES NOW the plaintiff (or the defendant) pursuant to [applicable rules and laws] hereby moves this court to … ” In this sentence, comes now is an introduction akin to “I’d like you to meet…” when you’re introducing two people. Yes, comes now is often capitalized.
Though comes now is arcane, it must be grammatically correct. When you’re introducing one plaintiff or defendant, comes now is correct. When introducing more than one plaintiff or defendant, come now is proper. It’s that subject/verb agreement thing still haunting you in adult life.
In some jurisdictions, the words may be reversed to Now Comes or Now Come, but the same grammatical rules apply.
Suggested alternative words: None. Comes now was listed as one of the Ten legal words and phrases we can do without for a reason. You can get right to your argument by omitting the phrase. Simply say, “The plaintiff … “
Although hereby is legalese, it’s not as egregious as others on this list. When used properly in fact, it can make a sentence clearer. The problem is that it’s not always used properly. Hereby is an adverb, part of a category called performative utterances. When used, the word transforms a statement or sentence into an official, formal, or even legally binding act. You can hereby proclaim, withdraw, resign, revoke, etc.
For instance, you can say, “I hereby certify that all statements in the foregoing document are true…”
Suggested alternative words: None.
HEREINAFTER or HEREAFTER
Like comes now, hereinafter is frequently used while writing motions and pleadings, and it’s also arcane. People don’t speak like that, even lawyers. It’s not plain English, and those who use it, especially pro se litigants, can reveal more about what they don’t know than what they do know. Still, it’s a part of legalese. Judges understand it, and it’s useful.
The word, hereinafter means “from this point on”. It introduces a word or term that will be substituted for another throughout the document. For example, a party may write,”Comes now the plaintiff, Sebastian Moore, hereinafter “Moore”… “.
Then, the word “plaintiff” is replaced with “Moore” throughout the remainder of the document. If you say you’re substituting a word, keep to the substituted word. In the example above, the writer shouldn’t use “plaintiff” again after they’ve said that word will be substituted by the word “Moore”.
Suggested alternative word: None. Omit the word and restructure the sentence.
Sample: The plaintiff, Sebastian Moore (Moore)…
Be consistent. After you’ve used a short form, like Moore in the sample, stick with that form. Don’t switch up.
“To do an act pursuant to the law is to conform to the requirements of a statute.” Legal Dictionary
Pursuant to means “in compliance with” or in accordance with certain statutes, rules, clauses in a contract, judge’s order, etc. In a statement, pursuant to will be used like this, “Comes now the plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) and hereby moves this court to … ” Like comes now and herein, pursuant to is archaic. ABAJournal says of it: “This is pure legalese. It makes beginners feel as if they belong to a club.”
The word isn’t necessary. Yet, judges understand this legalese, and many lawyers still use it. So, employing it properly does not put you in a bad light as a pro se litigant. In fact, you are part of a club.
Suggested alternative words: (1) in accordance with; (2) under; the sentence can be rewritten to include one of the alternative terms.
Sample: “In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a), the plaintiff moves this court to … “
The wherefore clause is typically the last paragraph in a motion or pleading just prior to the signature block and the certificate of service. The wherefore clause is a prayer for relief or demand for a particular judgment or ruling. Every properly written complaint or motion includes a wherefore clause.
In a complaint, the wherefore clause might tell the court how much money the plaintiff is demanding from the defendant. In a motion, it asks the judge to order something to happen.
For instance, if you want summary judgment, you’d write a motion that ends with a sentence like, “Wherefore the defendant moves this court for summary judgment against the defendant.”
In a complaint, the sentence may be as follows:
“Wherefore, the plaintiff respectfully prays that this Court awards relief as follows:
- Statutory penalties against the defendant according to the evidence,
- Back wages and benefits, as a result of the defendant’s unlawful and unfair business practices, and
- Reasonable attorney’s fees”
Suggested alternative words: None. Eliminate the word.
Sample: “The plaintiff respectfully prays…”
Comes now, hereby, hereinafter, pursuant to, and wherefore are about as archaic and grandiose as you can get. Do you really need them in your motions? You decide. They’re important enough that using them wrong can make you look incompetent and may hurt your case.
So, if you decide to go with the flow and put them to use in your motions or pleadings, know what they mean and how to properly use them. A similar rule applies if you leave them out. Know how to properly eliminate them from your documents using alternative words and omissions.
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