(This post was delayed but originally written during Week 5.)
In this fifth week at Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, my supervisor is out of the office. I am wrapping up my review for the Crime Victims Rights Toolkit. That means I will have read all* of the summaries of the over 600 legal statutes that apply to victims of crime in Ohio and recommended ways to reword them. Since the attorneys at OCVJC had already condensed the difficult legal language into understandable overviews of what each statute means, my editing work so far has been fairly straightforward. I have repeated the following questions to myself over and over:
- How can I break that idea into fewer sentences?
- Which words can be replaced with more common ones that have fewer syllables?
- Could the information be rearranged into a more logical order?
- Am I using active voice as much as possible?
My relative lack of familiarity with the law is beneficial because I recognize which terms and parts of the criminal justice process might be confusing. Once I finish, though, I will get a chance to write my own summaries of statutes from the beginning by looking at pending legislation that is likely to become Ohio law in the near future. I expect it to be a challenge. After all, legal language is unfamiliar to the untrained mind, and there is a reason professionals go through the rigor of law school to be able to write and practice law.
At the same time, working on a project to make the information contained in laws more accessible has me ponder Americans’ average level of familiarity with the criminal justice system and its terminology. Since we reflect on the start of our nation and its ideals of “liberty and justice for all” for the 4th of July, I will write a follow-up blog in the coming weeks that considers how well-equipped our nation prepares its citizens and residents to seek and receive justice.
(*I later realized I was not as close to finishing my review of the Toolkit as I thought. I was almost done with all of the Ohio statutes related to crime victims, but I still have to review the summaries of federal statutes that apply to victims of Crime in Ohio. Also, I added an extra step (number 3 in the following sentence) to my process of review. In total, I (1) read the existing statute summaries, (2) create my revision and note any remaining comments and questions I have, (3) go back to review my revision and reconsider the parts I was unsure about, (4) submit my revisions and comments/questions to my supervisor, and (5) then look at her comments and changes and make any updates. We may even repeat steps (4) and/or (5) to fine tune further. As I go through additional sections of the Toolkit that have statute summaries, I come across many summaries that are repeated and/or similar to others, and I want to make sure that the language and convention is as uniform as possible throughout the Toolkit.)