Along with the ghouls and the goblins, Dante is always a solid choice for anything with a Halloween theme. The epic poem the Divine Comedy has been in my thoughts lately; where Dante contrasts notions of heaven, hell and purgatory and allegorical journeys towards truth.

In Paradisio, Dante depicts heaven or paradise as a series of concentric spheres, including the 7th sphere or Saturn, the Contemplatives who embody temperance. Temperance: the trait of avoiding excesses.

In the Purgatorio or Purgatory, Dante encounters seven levels of suffering and explores the nature of sin, theorizing that all sin derives from love,“…either perverted love directed towards others’ harm, or deficient love, or the disordered love of good things.”

In the Inferno Dante encounters nine circles of hell, of which the 7th Circle of Hell houses the violent. The 7th circle is composed of three rings composed of the outer ring, the middle ring and the inner ring. The inner ring is where the blasphemers, or the violent against nature and god or truth reside.

Why have my thoughts turned to Dante recently? (Other than the time of year). Because I have been grappling with the 7th ed. of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation and I must say that in my experience with the 7th ed., it is far closer to the 7th circle of hell than the 7th sphere of heaven. After all, the 7th sphere of heaven is of temperance, the avoidance of excess, and I would suggest that expunging the use of the period completely out of a citation is indeed excess, a distinct lack of temperance. So it certainly could not be the 7th sphere of heaven. As we examine Purgatorio we get closer to the 7th ed. experience or we get warmer. And I’m quite certain that the sin of the 7th ed. did indeed come out of a disordered love of good things. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

While the 6th Circle of hell is where the heretics reside and on the surface seems much closer to the 7th ed. experience one must remember that it is the inner circle of the 7th circle where the blasphemers against truth and nature reside. While the 7th ed. contains some heresy, I would suggest that the treatment that the 7th ed. gives to the period is closer to blasphemy v. the truth. After all there are long established conventions for the use of the period in the English language. Such as when using abbreviations or initials in a name.

The reactions I have been receiving to the 7th ed. have been, at best, mixed. The most common reaction to the dropping of the period is, “Why? Why did they do this?” While I do not want to misrepresent my anecdotal evidence, some have been very happy about the expunging of the period, most, including first year students who have never used the guide before, do not understand the lack of the period. By an extremely good argument I can see the point of view (though not agree) with the dropping of the period from the reporter abbreviation. I must refer back to the use of the period in the English language established over several centuries. I have even had a first year student, say, “that doesn’t look right”. This is all further complicated when you are trying to teach first year students about legal citation when EVERY source they use retains the period. Furthermore, we have Statute Citation where the disordered love love included 2.1.1 Statutes, which in the general form does not mention commas separating chapter numbers and pinpoints, nor are commas included in the examples with 2.1.1; yet at 2.1.10 tje 7th ed. clearly states, “To cite a specific section of a statute, place a comma after the chapter and then indicate the section or sections”, in their lust (second circle) to expunge the period were editors omitted from the process? And what happened to other areas badly in need of addressing such as alternative formats found on the web?

While the 7th ed. has been a point of some conjecture since it came out this summer, I feel that this is an issue that still needs to be beat, preferably with a large, heavy, object. The McGill is the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, but lately I have been wondering if there might be room for another guide to legal citation in Canada? Or at the very least a supplement to the 7th ed.

While the Divine Comedy “…describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven; at a deeper level it represents allegorically the soul’s journey towards god(truth)”; am I going so far as to say that that legal citation is an allegory for the legal soul’s journey towards truth? Is cleanliness of citation next to godliness? Each legal soul has to determine that for themselves on their own journey towards legal truth.

Trick or Treat!

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  1. I’ve never had the pleasure of reading the Divine Comedy. All I know is that, as a law student, I’m going to be holding on to my old edition of the Guide. I like periods.

  2. Happy Hallowe’en Mark!

    I agree that the McGill Guide editors were decidedly lacking in temperance in their inquisition against punctuation. Perhaps it is time for the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to step in and formulate a Model Code of Legal Citation, as they have done with the Model Code of Professional Conduct, or their task force on the Canadian common law degree. This would allow for a more transparent process and wider input. (Think of it as an ecumenical council established to nail down our citation ‘creed’.) However, I think legal citation is destined to languish in purgatory (if not the other place) as only a few pendantic folks like us get terribly exercised over it.

  3. Perhaps I missed a post along the way, but there seems to be a lack of response to the concerns raised about the 7th ed. of the McGill guide from the editors.

  4. If there has been, I have missed it as well.