Sedley’s Laws of Documents

Sedley being The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Sedley of the Court of Appeal.

Interestingly, Google tracked them down on the website of the New South Wales Supreme Court. It is comforting to find that some things are universal.

First Law: Documents may be assembled in any order, provided it is not chronological, numerical or alphabetical.

Second Law: Documents shall in no circumstances be paginated continuously.

Third Law: No two copies of any bundle shall have the same pagination.

Fourth Law: Every document shall carry at least three numbers in different places.

Fifth Law: Any important documents shall be omitted.

Sixth Law: At least 10 percent of the documents shall appear more than once in the bundle.

Seventh Law: As many photocopies as practicable shall be illegible, truncated or cropped.

Eighth Law:

  1. At least 80 percent of the documents shall be irrelevant.
  2. Counsel shall refer in court to no more than 10 percent of the documents, but these may include as many irrelevant ones as counsel or solicitor deems appropriate.

Ninth Law: Only one side of any double-sided document shall be reproduced.

Tenth Law: Transcriptions of manuscript documents shall bear as little relation as reasonably practicable to the original.

Eleventh Law: Documents shall be held together, in the absolute discretion of the solicitor assembling them, by:

  1. a steel pin sharp enough to injure the reader,
  2. a staple too short to penetrate the full thickness of the bundle.
  3. tape binding so stitched that the bundle cannot be fully opened, or,
  4. a ring or arch-binder, so damaged that the two arcs do not meet.

12 Replies to “Sedley’s Laws of Documents”

  1. A further law: If any portion of any document is of particular importance to any issue in the case, that portion shall be highlighted, before copying, in a dark colour so that after copying it is rendered as nearly illegible as is reasonably practicable.

  2. A further law: all copy photographs shall be in black and white and taken, if at all possible, after they have been faxed multiple times.

  3. A further law.Without prejudice to the Third Law, not less than five percent of documents shall be inserted in the bundle upside down.

  4. A further law. The bundle provided to the Court shall under no circumstances be identical to that in the hands of the advocates or to that provided to any witness.

  5. A further law. There must be a fresh stain on the front page of the bundle (ie. coffee from a mug, ink splog, etc etc.).

  6. A note that this account is missing the Eighth law, and (ah, the irony!) the 8th and following in this list are therefore misnumbered.

    The Eighth law is:

    “Significant passages shall be marked with a highlighter that goes black when photocopied”.

    See Sedley, Stephen, Ashes and Sparks: essays on law and justice, Cambridge, 2011 pp.228-230

  7. Addendum to the Tenth Law: Transcriptions of tapes (inclusive of videotapes) shall omit all relevant material or, if that is not possible, all material adverse to the interests of the transcribing party. However, insertion of spurious evidence in favour of the transcribing party is permitted on the condition the party’s solicitor is not informed or forgets to alert Counsel. Any timestamp markers in the transcript must not match those in the original tape. Measured lengths of time within the running tape must not match the tape’s own timestamp markers.

  8. And another: 20% of the bundle shall be reduced to A5 and printed sideways on A4 with half the page blank, such pages to be chosen preferentially from those with the smallest font size to begin with.

  9. Addendum the the Fourth Law
    Pagination
    4A – If (as in every case it would) be helpful to have either pagination and/or tabs then neither will be included
    4B – If, the file compiler has not read rule 4A and has included either and/or pagination or tabs then in no circumstances will they be the same in the bundles held by the Judge, advocate and witness

    New Rule
    In document heavy cases requiring significant preparation, the paginated papers shall only be delivered to Counsel after all trial preparation has been undertaken and skeletons have been prepared, thereby ensuring that notes, highlighting and cross-referencing all have to be re-done

  10. Addendum to eleventh law:
    [5] The bundling shall be compiled using a hole punch containing both US legal and English A4 heights, to be used alternately per punch.

    And a further general addendum:
    …The inclusion of without prejudice offers within the bundle shall be mandatory.

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