Names In Caps

“Nom de Guerre”: Names in CAPS

A student of the law may visit a typical law library and possibly find one of the the oldest sets of books common in such libraries: Howell’s State Trials, which is an 18th century publication that reprinted historic, old English cases regarding a wide variety of topics. Review of this page of Howell’s State Trials shows that even in 1629, the names of cases (their “styles”) were capitalised………………..

 

 

In recent years, there has been promoted an argument that capitalized styles of cases means something sinister. Some advocates of this argument identify the source for this contention: a book written by a man named Berkhimer. Allegedly in this book, the author states that a “nom de guerre” is a “war name” symbolized by a given name being written in capital letters. I have tried to find this passage in this book but have been unable to do so. The argument contends that because of events in 1933, we have been made “enemies” and government indicates our status as enemies by the nom de guerre. If this is true, then why have the styles of the decisions of the United States Supreme Court since its establishment been in caps? This argument has gotten lots of people in trouble. For example, a number of people such as Al Thompson and Keith Anderson have defended themselves against criminal charges with this argument, but have been thrown into jail nonetheless. I have not even seen a decent brief on this issue which was predicated upon cases you can find in an ordinary law library.

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