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A Salmagundi of 'Selyaisms'

Those of us who practice within the federal courts' first judicial circuit have long had a crapulous craving for the tenebrous pearls of linguistic perlustration emanating over the years from the opinions of now-senior 1st Circuit Judge Bruce M. Selya. As Selya's former law clerk Frederick A. Brodie observes this week in The National Law Journal, among practitioners, the jurist "is best known for his erudite and arcane vocabulary, which has provoked frequent head scratching by counsel." Brodie, now a litigation partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York, does a worthy service to the 1st Circuit bar, compiling in the NLJ a compendium of memorable "Selyaisms," selected with input from other former clerks, to assist lawyers who appear before him or must interpret his opinions. Among them: defenestration, encincture, perlustration, philotheoparoptesism, rodomontade and ultracrepidarian.

Brodie reveals that while clerking for Selya in 1988 and 1989, he purchased a word-a-day calendar. His co-clerks and he then tried to see who could successfully plant the day's word in a published Selya opinion. One success was "crapulous." It means "stinking drunk," Brodie writes, and "fit perfectly into a dram shop case, where a local bar had allegedly breached its duties by serving a visibly crapulous driver."

A signature Selya phrase, "We need go no further," appears in more than 1,000 of his opinions, Brodie notes, adding that after 25 years on the bench, "it's encouraging to see that Selya keeps going further."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 1, 2008 at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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