Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Clear, concise, and effective English for law students, bar examinees, and legal writers in organizations, private companies, and government offices (12): Use the active voice, minimize the passive

[1] A sentence is in the active voice if the subject performs the action expressed in the verb. For example:

The dog bit the boy. (Active voice)

The boy was bitten by the dog. (Passive voice)

[2] Reasons to use the active voice (articles from the Michigan Bar Journal):
Stay Active! (Part 1)
 
Stay Active! (Part 2)  

[3] Exercise: Locate the passive voice verbs in this example from the Civil Service Commission website. (Answer at the bottom of this page)

Historical Highlights

The civil service system in the Philippines was formally established under Public Law No. 5 ("An Act for the Establishment and Maintenance of Our Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the Philippine Island") in 1900 by the Second Philippine Commission. A Civil Service Board was created composed of a Chairman, a Secretary and a Chief Examiner. The Board administered civil service examinations and set standards for appointment in government service. It was reorganized into a Bureau in 1905.

The 1935 Philippine Constitution firmly established the merit system as the basis for employment in government. The following years also witnessed the expansion of the Bureau’s jurisdiction to include the three branches of government: the national government, local government and government corporations.

In 1959, Republic Act 2260, otherwise known as the Civil Service Law, was enacted. This was the first integral law on the Philippine bureaucracy, superseding the scattered administrative orders relative to government personnel administration issued since 1900. This Act converted the Bureau of Civil Service into the Civil Service Commission with department status.

In 1975, Presidential Decree No. 807 (The Civil Service Decree of the Philippines) redefined the role of the Commission as the central personnel agency of government. Its present mandate is derived from Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution which was given effect through Book V of Executive Order No. 292 (The 1987 Administrative Code). The Code essentially reiterates existing principles and policies in the administration of the bureaucracy and recognizes, for the first time, the right of government employees to self-organization and collective negotiations under the framework of the 1987 Constitution.

[4] US cases dismissed due to passive voice (from Mark Cooney, Michigan Bar Journal, June 2005)

Coroles v Sabey, 79 P3d 974, 981 (Utah App 2003)

Castro v Hastings, 74 Fed. Appx. 607, 609 (CA 7, 2003)

Zito v Leasecomm Corp, No. 02 Civ. 8074 (GEL), 2003 WL 22251352, at *10 (SD NY Sept 30, 2003)

In re MJB, 140 SW3d 643, 656 (Tenn App 2004)

United States v Wilson, 503 US 329, 334–35 (1992)

DaimlerChrysler Serv No Amer, LLC v State Tax Assessor, 817 A2d 862, 865 (Me 2003)

Arlington Educ Ass’n v Arlington School Dist No. 3, 34 P3d 1197, 1200 (Or App 2001)

[5] Recent US cases that involved the issue of passive voice:
Pendergest-Holt et al v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds of London, No. 10-200069 (5th Cir. March 15, 2010)

Sherley v. Sebelius No. 10-5287, slip op. at 2 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 29, 2011) 

Answers to the exercise (passive voice in boldface):

Historical Highlights

The civil service system in the Philippines was formally established under Public Law No. 5 ("An Act for the Establishment and Maintenance of Our Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the Philippine Island") in 1900 by the Second Philippine Commission. A Civil Service Board was created composed of a Chairman, a Secretary and a Chief Examiner. The Board administered civil service examinations and set standards for appointment in government service. It was reorganized into a Bureau in 1905.

The 1935 Philippine Constitution firmly established the merit system as the basis for employment in government. The following years also witnessed the expansion of the Bureau’s jurisdiction to include the three branches of government: the national government, local government and government corporations.

In 1959, Republic Act 2260, otherwise known as the Civil Service Law, was enacted. This was the first integral law on the Philippine bureaucracy, superseding the scattered administrative orders relative to government personnel administration issued since 1900. This Act converted the Bureau of Civil Service into the Civil Service Commission with department status.

In 1975, Presidential Decree No. 807 (The Civil Service Decree of the Philippines) redefined the role of the Commission as the central personnel agency of government. Its present mandate is derived from Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution which was given effect through Book V of Executive Order No. 292 (The 1987 Administrative Code). The Code essentially reiterates existing principles and policies in the administration of the bureaucracy and recognizes, for the first time, the right of government employees to self-organization and collective negotiations under the framework of the 1987 Constitution. 


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