Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JULY 2008

Puzzling Pronouns
In the February/March 2008 issue of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, entitled "You Are Us," was an article called Problems with Pronouns. In the article the nominative case pronouns (I, you, she, he, it, we and they) were listed in a column. In eighth grade I was taught that nominative case pronouns are used as both subject and predicate when linked by a "to be" verb. Thus, one would say You are we. But one would not say You are us. Has the rule changed since my grammar school days? Should I say Obsolete is I? Or should I say Wrong is the Oregon State Bar Bulletin cover? Curious are we.

Meredith George

Suzanne Rowe, the Bulletin’s resident writing expert, responds: Curious George is correct that formal English still follows the rule that we learned in eighth grade. This rule causes curmudgeons like me to say "This is she" when answering the phone. But even the Chicago Manual of Style admits that in less formal settings objective pronouns are sneaking in more often, resulting in "This is her." The question, then, is "How Formal Art Thou?"

Re: Boumediene v. Bush
We seem to have hard time figuring out if we’re trying to find and arrest terrorists or fight a war with terrorists. We don’t have a well-defined, uniformed enemy supported by a state with borders; instead we have well-equipped, well-organized non-state actors engaging in fairly high-intensity combat operations. This is a different kind of warfare.

Our laws tend to assume rational (to the Western mind) actors, but that’s not the type of enemy we have. These guys tend to be true believers, fanatics. If you give them a 15-year sentence then in 15 years they’ll be back to doing their best to kill you and anyone like you. They will lie, dissemble and cynically use any aspect of our society that they can to help their cause, to include enlisting the assistance of well-meaning ACLU lawyers. Run-of-the-mill criminals may do the same thing, but they’re generally not out to convert the world to their belief system. These people are like swarms of Timothy McVeighs, but they’re acting on their hate from safe havens in foreign countries. When attacks happen here our law enforcement agencies can meticulously develop their cases and get convictions that will lock such people up for life, or even execute them. When they happen in some back street in Baghdad or hill village in Afghanistan with a fight going on and a patrol reacting to contact, maneuvering, maybe detaining a probable bad guy and then moving on to continue their mission that just doesn’t work very well.

I don’t think we’ve really figured out how to deal with this. Maybe this new USSC ruling will spur Congress to put in place some kind of system of handling these guys that makes sense, that balances basic human rights with legitimate national security interests, but I kind of doubt it.

Gregory T. Day
Grants Pass

What’s in a Name?
I was thrilled to read in the June 2008 issue of the Bulletin that the name of the MCLE requirement was changed from "Elimination of Bias" to "Access to Justice". No doubt the members of the Diversity Section, the Board of Governors and the Oregon Supreme Court spent many hours of great effort to bring about this change.

Thomas J. Moore

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