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we, the people, in order to form a more perfect union


This is a very trivial one even by my own standards of nonsense, because the only case I’m interested in this week (RE B&H fact-finding) hasn’t come up as a judgment yet.

As ever, I ended my most recent court hearing drawing up a court order, and like a reverse iceberg, only about a tenth of the document was an order, and the rest was preamble.

And that let me to muse as to whether the word means exactly what it suggests, that this is what happens before the amble.  And it sort of does – it literally means before the walk.  From perambulation, meaning walking.

That ended up leading me to consideration of preambles generally, and that the most famous/notable one is the lead in to the American constitution.  I was hoping that it would begin “We hold these truths to be self-evident” since that is a better title, but no, it goes like this:-


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
My preambles are, sadly, never as lofty as that; though it is something to aspire to.
Apparently, no American Court has ever used the preamble as the basis for any decision, which is a shame.
And in an oddly circuitous event, one of the only two Children Act cases on Lawtel that deal with ‘preambles’  is the President’s decision on prior authority and public funding that I’ve previously blogged about, and the other one is my own case involving maternity testing and drawing inferences * where a child did not wish  to undertake one which is undergoing a fractious final  hearing this very week.
In that case, the Court of Appeal were very unhappy about the preamble to the order leaving the matter (a) unresolved and (b) proceeding on a fallacious basis.
So, although nobody in America has ever managed to get a case decided as a result of the preamble to the US constitution, I’ve managed to win an appeal where the preamble played a major part in that decision.
America 0  Suesspicious Minds 1
[I actually had completely forgotten that synchronicity and was merely putting together something short on the charming concept that all of that preliminary drafting is something we do before the amble.]
* There are now two cases involving children not wanting to undertake DNA tests, and both produce different answers based on the very different facts. Both are in the tags.

About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

2 responses

  1. I think what goes at the top of the order is becoming more and more important, if only to remind everybody what on earth we were thinking of 4 months ago when we changed everthing and why. However, why preamble – why not recital?

    Or, indeed, Prologue

    – which might in fact be more apt, really, as my cod Latin tells me it’s what goes before the words… (I had to give it up before O Level, or rather it gave up on me).

    Of course shortly we won’t have to wonder what happened 4 months ago, because it will be all done and dusted. On the other hand when it all goes wrong 2 months after the final order and we have to start all over again it will be a useful record…

    • Yes, I know that Justice Ryder is very keen on having orders that show exactly why the course of action was taken, and wants any delays to be recorded and set out with formal identification that the Child’s Timescales have changed because. I do like a preamble myself, because it makes it clear why the directions were made, and memories fade. I’d forgotten that they always used to be recitals, which is much pithier. Maybe it is a local fashion that where I am now, they are always preambles and not recitals.

      Say hi to everyone in Essex for me – I worked there for a brief stint a few years back and they are top people. (andrew)

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