Thursday, May 26, 2005

The need for basic reference documents

Given the nature of the debate within Ufology, it is surprising that lawyers appear not to have a more active role in the discussions. Apart from areas within which lawyers might be expected to have directly applicable skills (e.g. in relation to Freedom of Information Act issues, interviewing of witnesses etc), the basic skills and concepts used and developed by lawyers may have a wider role.

In particular, it appears to me to be desirable to consider whether any of the tools used by lawyers (e.g. fact and issue management devices) and concepts used by lawyers (e.g. relating to standards of proof, burdens of proof, weight of evidence, relevance, materiality, proportionality etc) could useful be deployed.

Of course, lawyers do not have a monopoly on the use of most of these tools and concepts. However, many of the comments made in the present ufological literature betray a lack of understanding of some of the fundamental understanding of relevant concepts. On a more pragmatic level, it appears to be worth giving further consideration to the fact and issue management tools used by lawyers (particularly in factually complex cases).

For example, under the present civil litigation procedure in England in large commercial cases, the parties to litigation are expected to co-operate in various respects so as to make a case fit for trial in as efficient and fair a manner as possible. This involves, at the most basic level, producing various agreed (and therefore non-conteniously drafted) documents so that the trial judge will be able to understand the nature of the dispute and the issues in dispute as efficiently as possible. Even if not directed to jointly produce such documents by the judge, the parties may jointly prepare such documents in an attempt to narrow the issues between themselves, or draft documents themselves in a non-contentious manner to assist the Court.

These non-contentious documents typically include:
a chronology (giving the dates of key events, a few words to identify the event and cross references to further material relied upon by both sides in relation to that event ;

(a) a List of Issues (listing the main issues agreed and not agreed between the parties);

(b) a case memorandum (summarising the case in just a few pages);

(c) a dramatis personae (listing the names that the Judge will come across at trial, with a few words to identify them);

(d) a glossary (listing technical terms or terms of art that will arise during the trial, with an agreed definition of those terms);

(e) a reading list (of material to be read in advance of the trial) .

Non-contentious documents in the form of chronologies and a List of Issues appear to be harder to find, whether in print or (to an even greater extent) on the Internet.

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