Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Link and a Bit of Vocabulary.

In what was absolutely the very best class I ever attended at UH Law--Jewish Law--we learned many things that have proved insightful. But I especially liked the word INTERSTITIAL. Do you know it? I first heard it used to decribe the way in which Jewish Rabbis would interpret the Torah and the Talmud. These men spent their lives studying, memorizing, and interpreting centuries of Jewish law. And once or twice in their lives, they would offer some new interpretation, or what might even be described as a new law. But to the extent a rabbi writes new law, he only does so interstitially.

I looked up interstitial in Black's Law Dictionary. This $60 addition to every one-L's locker did not list 'interstitial.' But the more-expensive Oxford American Dictionary (a gift from Dennis) defines it as forming or occupying interstices. And interstice is defined as an intervening space, esp. a very small one. A wooden translation of the word from Latin means something like 'standing between.'

Every judge in America ought to know this word, especially those who sit on the highest state and federal courts. Their duty is to study the law, interpret it and apply it to the facts of each case, and write new laws as seldom as possible. And when they do "write law" they must do so only interstitially. That is, judges are only to fill the gaps left by the democratic legislature, not to craft entirely new laws sua sponte (on their own motion). In other words, interstitial law merely closes the tiny holes created by a legislature's inability to draft statutes that can provide for every possible fact pattern.

A bit of fun:

Friends of mine at the Democracy Project added this blog to their list of links today. (Thanks, Brent.) Check out their informative site, linked above with a little help from Dennis. (I can already see that knowing how to link will lengthen the time I spend here.) Brent wrote an introduction of me and this blog that I can only hope to aspire to... I mean to which I can only hope to aspire. It means a lot coming from him, prodigy that he is.

By the way, many lawyers I know received a baker's dozen of personalized cross pens upon graduation. One friend even gave me a Mont Blanc. But I suggest you buy the newly-minted lawyers in your life a dictionary. A good one.


Blogger dennis said...

You're welcome, of course.

And by the way- interstitial is also a very important word in the field of biology: 1.Relating to, occurring in, or affecting interstices. 2. Anatomy. Relating to or situated in the small, narrow spaces between tissues or parts of an organ: interstitial cells; interstitial fluid. (thanks to for the text). We use that word often to describe processes that occur between the cells of an organ as opposed to processes within those cells.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

And I saw something of that in the dictionary you gave me....

More importantly, in biology the word is again used to describe not just spaces, but "narrow" spaces.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Steven Wales said...

Okay, guess what? I just saw the little bio/blurb Brent put on the Democracy Project website. That is quite cool. (He wrote a little thing referring people to this site.)

Once again, it has always paid to be friends with Mr. Tantillo.... (Plus, he was the guy I liked most in law school.)

9:02 PM  
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