As lawyers, we get to debate some of the most pressing questions of our time: The limits of Congress's commerce power. The reach of the Due Process Clause. "Pleaded" versus "pled."
Yes, you read that right: There is a bitter, friend-splitting debate raging among lawyers about whether to use "pleaded" or "pled." (For our part, we almost ended up at Weehawken over the row.) Both words get a lot of play in legal writing. We think that it's time for one usage to rule them allbut we disagree about which word to send to the dustbin. Chandler always uses "pled." Boone always uses "pleaded." The gloves are off.
But first, some context. We (Chandler and Boone) appreciate good writing, including a conversational tone. We both detest legaleseour jargon detectors go off when we see "herein," "instant case," or "prior to." Neither of us starts sentences with "However""But" is better. But on pleaded-pled we disagree.
Here are our competing views:
(The minority viewor as Boone calls it, the "you've-watched-too-many-episodes-of-Law & Order" view):
Use "pled." Boone needs to get out more"pleaded" may seem fine on paper, but lawyers chuck the word when they head to court. A lawyer arguing a motion to dismiss doesn't say, "They haven't pleaded scienter." He says, "They haven't pled scienter."
I know, I know: Bryan Garner says that "pleaded" is the "predominant form in American English."1 But does the guy listen to people talk? Nobody says "pleaded." Everybody says "pled"and not just the good folks on Law & Order. "Pled" just sounds better to the ear.
Twice, legal tabloid/blog Above the Law has asked its readers which they prefer"pleaded" or "pled."2 Twice, strong majorities chose "pled." Check Westlaw or Lexis, and you'll find that judges use "pled" more often than "pleaded."3
Moreover, it's not like "pled" is the legal-writing equivalent of texting's "OMG"heck, even Edmund Spenser used "pled" way back in 1596.4 And Michael Quinion, the famous British etymologist and writer who runs the website World Wide Words, describes "pled" as the American strong-verb form of the past tense of "to plead."5