Thursday, May 03, 2007

Court News - Hand Up or Down Indictment?

From Webster’s New World Law Dictionary

hand down v. For a judge or court to release a decision upon a motion or at the resolution of a trial or appeal.

hand up  v. For a grand jury to process an indictment of an accused.

This is from Poynteronline (I pasted here because the URL does not seem to be working)

I note this because on occasion you are going to here this from crusty old or even young editors who think they know best. Once you read this, however, I would argue that any time this construction is used it should be changed to:
"John Jones was indicted" 
"a grand jury indicted John Jones"

Also see note from AP on indict pasted at end:

Posted, Jan. 18, 2002
Updated, Jan. 18, 2002

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

By Dr. Ink (more by author)

Dear Dr. Ink:
Every time I hear or read a news report where "indictments have been handed
down" I wonder, "where are these indictments going? Who or what is below a
panel of citizens?" Not to belittle the work of grand juries, but it's my understanding that they actually hand the indictments "up" -- as in, up to the courts. It all follows a certain hierarchy: the Supreme Court, as the highest in the land, gets to "hand down decisions," while judges can "hand out" sentences to defendants.

I'll admit it's been a long time since I covered the courts, but I can't imagine the system has changed all that much in 10 years! Was I taught incorrectly, or is the common usage of the "handing up" of indictments become the accepted usage?
Amy Henderson

Most everything Dr. Ink learned about the law he learned from watching television courtroom dramas, from Perry Mason to Law & Order. Thus, any answer he gives to this question must be considered "fruit of the poisoned tree." Let it be known, however, that the Doc mentally experienced voir dire and finds himself acceptable as a juror on this question.

But before he issues a verdict, Dr. Ink consulted Jim Naughton, Poynter president, old court reporter, and notorious Dr. Ink poseur. Here's what The Swami had to say:
"I'm on Amy's side. Any lawyer or judge who read that an indictment was 'handed down' would find the reporter's qualifications to be suspect. I share the view that reporters should write for readers, not judges, but they have to be credible with judges; if they use the phrase at all, they should use it correctly. It is, technically, handed up to the trial court, not down to the defendant. A verdict, whether from a judge or jury of peers, is handed down after trial. A good reporter writes that so-and-so 'was indicted' and avoids the jargon altogether." Copyright © 1995-2008 The Poynter Institute

From AP:
indict Use indict only in connection with the legal process of bringing charges against an individual or corporation.
To avoid any suggestion that someone is being judged before a trial, do not use phrases such as indicted for killing or indicted for bribery. Instead, use indicted on a charge of killing or indicted on a bribery charge.
For guidelines on related words, see accuse; allege; and arrest.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JOHN said...

Indictments are techincally "returned" by grand juries to courts. John