Bryan A. Garner (born November 17, 1958, in Lubbock, Texas) is a U.S. lawyer, lexicographer, and teacher who has written several books about English usage and style, including Garner's Modern American Usage and Elements of Legal Style. He is the editor-in-chief of all current editions of Black's Law Dictionary. He has coauthored two books with Justice Antonin Scalia: Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012).
Garner attended the University of Texas at Austin (1977–1981) and, upon receiving his B.A. degree, entered the University of Texas School of Law, where he served as associate editor of the Texas Law Review. After receiving his J.D. degree in 1984, he clerked for Judge Thomas M. Reavley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit before joining the Dallas firm of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, where he worked as a litigation associate from 1985 to 1988. He then returned to the University of Texas School of Law as a visiting associate professor and was named director of the short-lived Texas/Oxford Center for Legal Lexicography, while teaching writing and editing seminars at the law school. In 1990, he left the University to found LawProse, Inc., a Dallas company that provides seminars on clear writing for lawyers and judges.
As a student at the University of Texas School of Law in 1981, Garner began noticing odd usages in lawbooks—many of them dating back to Shakespeare—and they became the source material for his first book, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. That book was published by Oxford University Press in 1987 and is now in its third edition (published in 2011 and retitled Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage). Since 1990, his main work has been teaching seminars such as Advanced Legal Writing and Editing, Advanced Legal Drafting, and The Winning Brief. Garner has set up online seminars on writing and advocacy.
Since 2006, Garner has interspersed in his lectures numerous video clips from the many dozens of judges he has interviewed on the art of writing and on advocacy. In 2006–2007, he interviewed eight of the nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court. In addition, Garner has interviewed circuit judges on all the federal circuits. He has compiled an extensive archive of what American judges in the early 21st century say about effective writing and advocacy.
On July 8, 2001, the New York Times ran a front-page Sunday article about a minor controversy that had emerged as a result of Garner's teachings. In various books and articles, as well as in his lectures, Garner has tried to reform the way bibliographic references are "interlarded" (i.e., interwoven) in the midst of textual analysis. He argues for putting citations in footnotes while noting in-text information that is important but nonbibliographic. He opposes references such as 457 U.S. 423, 432, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 2521, 89 L.Ed.2d 744, 747 as interruptions in the middle of a line. To this day, however, interruptions in judges' opinions and in lawyers' briefs remain the norm. Some courts and advocates around the country have begun adopting Garner's recommended style of footnoted citations, and a surprising degree of internal strife has resulted within some organizations. For example, one appellate judge in Louisiana refused to join in a colleague's opinions written in the new format. Garner says that one of the main reasons for the reform is to make legal writing more comprehensible and accessible to readers without a legal education. Yet he has attracted vehement opposition, most notably from Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and from his co-author, Justice Antonin Scalia.
Garner has contributed to the field of procedural rules. In 1992–1994, he revised all amendments to the various sets of Federal Rules—Civil, Appellate, Evidence, Bankruptcy, and Criminal—by the United States Judicial Conference. In the mid-1990s, he restyled the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which were adopted by the Judicial Conference, then by the United States Supreme Court, and enacted by Congress. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were restyled in 1993–1994 and adopted on December 1, 2007. The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has printed and distributed Garner's booklet Guidelines for Drafting and Editing Court Rules (1996). Garner has revised the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, the California Rules of Appellate Procedure, the California Judicial Council Rules, the Local Rules of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and the Rules on Judicial-Conduct and Disability Proceedings (for federal courts).
Since 2012, Garner has had a monthly column in the American Bar Association Journal. Since 1999, he has had a similar column in the ABA's Student Lawyer.
The linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum, who has wondered why somebody as qualified as the University of Chicago linguist James D. McCawley was not invited to write the chapter, had this criticism of the 15th edition:
His chapter is unfortunately full of repetitions of stupidities of the past tradition in English grammar – more of them than you could shake a stick at.... [O]n page 177 he appears to claim that progressive clauses are always active (making clauses like Our premises are being renovated impossible); on page 179 he states that English verbs have seven inflected forms, including a present subjunctive, a past subjunctive, and an imperative (utter nonsense);...
In the 2010 16th edition, the chapter grew to 103 pages.
But as much as people need description of how language works and how people are using it, they also want instruction in how they ought to use it for particular purposes, mainly the niceties of standard written English for publication. Bryan Garner meets a deeply felt need, and he does so responsibly.
"Ten Questions for Bryan Garner", The Scrivener, Fall 1996, pp. 1, 6–7.
"Remembering Judge Thomas Gibbs Gee", Review of Litigation, vol. 15, pp. 169–75 (1996).
"The Uncivil Lawyer: A Scourge at the Bar (with Judge Thomas Gibbs Gee)", Review of Litigation, vol. 15, pp. 177–201 (1996).
"Plain Language: An Excerpt from A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage", Michigan Bar Journal, vol. 74, pp. 1062–65 (1995).
"The Deep Issue: A New Approach to Framing Legal Questions", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 5, pp. 1–39 (1994–1995).
"The Legal–Writing Skills Test", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 5, pp. 107–40 (1994–1995).
"Two Publishers Reprint Historical Law Dictionaries", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 5, pp. 167–68 (1994–1995).
"Planning an In–House Writing Workshop?: Reflections from a Veteran CLE Instructor", CLE J. & Register, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 5–11 (1993).
"In Praise of Simplicity but in Derogation of Simplism", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 4, pp. 123–24 (1993).
"Briefs to the Supreme Court", in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States 91 (1992).
"The Style of Supreme Court Opinions", in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States 607–11 (1992).
"The Lawyer‘s 'Imply'", in Proceedings of the American Dialect Society' (1992).
"On Beginning Sentences with But", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 3, pp. 87–93 (1992), repr. in Michigan Bar Journal, Oct. 2003, pp. 43–44.
"Colloquiality in Law", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 3, pp. 147–48 (1992).
"Insane Committees", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 3, p. 151 (1992).
"Three Steps Toward Plain Language", The Subpoena (San Antonio Bar Ass‘n), pp. 10–11 (April 1992).
"An Excerpt from The Elements of Legal Style: Rooting Out Sexism", Michigan Bar Journal, vol. 70, pp. 942–43 (Aug. 1991).
"An Approach to Legal Style", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 2, pp. 1–35 (1991).
"The Wright–Garner–Maugans Correspondence on Complimentary Closes", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 2, pp. 83–99 (1991).
"Alliteritis", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 2, p. 145 (1991).
"Vocabulary–Building in the First Circuit", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 2, pp. 150–55 (1991).
"On the Name of the 'SJLW'", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 2, pp. 160–63 (1991).
"Word–Karma", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 15, no. 1, p. 16 (21 Jan. 1991).
"Excerpts from A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage", Michigan Bar Journal (October 1990).
"A Scholar‘s View of Book Preservation", in Proceedings of the Conference on the Global Responsibility of Law Librarians, p. 113 (Fred B. Rothman & Co., 1990).
"An Uninformed System of Citation: The Maroonbook Blues", Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 1, pp. 191–96 (1990) (debating Prof. Douglas Laycock).
"The Missing Common–Law Words", in the State of the Language [a decennial anthology], 1990, ed. C. Ricks & L. Michaels (Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 235–45. (Essay reviewed in Legal Linguistics, The Legal Times, 23 April 1990, p. 54).
"Smelling of the Inkhorn: Vocabulary–Building with Judge Selya", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 16–17 (15 Feb. 1990).
"Pronunciation‘s Scofflaws", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 13, no. 10, p. 12 (16 Oct. 1989).
"Novelties in Lawyer Talk", The Appellate Advocate, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 9–12 (Summer 1989), repr. The Scrivener, pp. 3–6 (Winter 1989).
"Going Hence Without Day", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 13, no. 10, p. 12 (16 Oct. 1989).
"Trippingly Off the Tongue: Doublets and Triplets of the Legal Idiom", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 13, no. 9, pp. 14–15 (18 Sept. 1989), repr. in Maricopa County Lawyer, vol. 9, no. 5, p. 9 (May 1990).
"The Language of Appellate Advocacy", Litigation, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 39–42, 58 (Summer 1989), repr. in 'Appellate Practice Manual 188–96 (ABA, 1992).
"The Oxford Law Dictionary: A Historical Dictionary for English–Speaking Jurisdictions", The Law Librarian [London], vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 55–56 (Aug. 1989).
"Lapsus Memoriae", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 13, no. 5, p. 9 (15 May 1989).
"Cruel and Unusual English: When Judges Play with Words", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 12–13 (20 Feb. 1989).
"On Pun Control", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 12, no. 11, p. 15 (21 Nov. 1988).
"The Word on the Street", ABA Journal, vol. 74, p. 105 (Dec. 1988).
"On Legal Style", ABA Journal, vol. 74, pp. 101–02 (Oct. 1988).
"The Hearsay Rule and Its Exceptions (with Barbara M.G. Lynn)", University of Houston CLE Program, How to Offer and Exclude Evidence (April 1988) [course booklet].
"A Grammatical Grotesquerie in Texas Practice", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 12, no. 7, p. 12 (18 July 1988), repr. DALS Diary, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 13–15 (Aug. 1988).
"Testamentary Depositions and Other Curiosities", Dallas Bar Headnotes, vol. 12, no. 5, p. 13 (16 May 1988).
"Finding the Right Words", Michigan Bar Journal, vol. 67, no. 8, pp. 762–64 (1988).
"Latinate Past Participles as Metrical and Stylistic Variants" in Shakespeare, Language and Style, vol. 19, pp. 242–47 (1986).
"UTmost Interviews John Simon", UTmost, pp. 36–40 (Winter 1984).
"Learned Length and Thund‘ring Sound: A Word–Lover‘s Panegyric", Verbatim, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 1–3 (Winter 1984).
"Shakespeare‘s The Taming of the Shrew, V.II.54, The Explicator, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 16–17 (Spring 1983).
"Etymological Overlap: Analogous Derivatives in English", Verbatim, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 20–21 (Autumn 1983).
"Latin–Saxon Hybrids in Shakespeare and the Bible", Studies in the Humanities, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 39–44 (June 1983), repr. in a Reader in the Language of Shakespearean Drama (Amsterdam: John Benjamins 1987), abridged as "Shakespeare's Latin–Saxon Hybrids", The Shakespeare Newsletter, vol. 33, no. 4, p. 40 (Winter 1983).
"Shakespeare‘s Learned Language", The Shakespeare Newsletter, vol. 33, no. 4, p. 40 (Winter 1983).
"Shakespeare‘s Latinate Neologisms", Shakespeare Studies, vol. 15, pp. 149–70 (1982), repr. in a Reader in the Language of Shakespearean Drama (Amsterdam: John Benjamins 1987), abridged as "Shakespeare as Latinate Wordmaker", The Shakespeare Newsletter, vol. 33, no. 4, p. 40 (Winter 1983).
"A Note on Holofernes‘ Pronunciamentos", American Notes & Queries, vol. 20, nos. 7 & 8, pp. 100–01 (Mar./Apr. 1982).
"Meretricious Words, or the Quean‘s English", Verbatim, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 1–5 (Winter 1982).
"A Note on the Ambiguity of Macbeth‘s 'Intrenchant'", American Notes & Queries, vol. 20, nos. 3 & 4, pp. 39–43 (Nov./Dec. 1981), repr. in American Notes & Queries, vol. 21, nos. 3 & 4, pp. 36–40 (Nov./Dec. 1982).