FOR GENERATIONS, crusty newspaper editors have growled...


FOR GENERATIONS, crusty newspaper editors have growled at exuberant but inexperienced reporters to cut out the fluff and "keep it short." Brevity is critical when you've got limited space. Besides, the reader's time is limited, too. Tight, well-written newspaper articles are treasured.

Now a federal judge in North Dakota is taking that same approach in the legal profession. He is virtually commanding lawyers to keep their legal briefs or motions to 15 pages -- or less. And he is quoting Winston Churchill to back up his brevity command: "The length of this document defends it well against the risk of being read."

It's about time lawyers learned how to say things succinctly and directly. As Judge Bruce Van Sickle noted in laying down his law on length, many attorneys file voluminous briefs even on minor matters to build up the billable hours they charge clients. That not only puts more money in their pockets, at the clients' expense, but also creates a huge backlog of work for judges that gums up the wheels of justice.

It might help reduce the backlog of cases in the Baltimore courts if state and federal judges here would lay down a similar mandate. They ought to tell lawyers to "keep it short" in the interest of expediting proceedings and restoring public confidence in the legal system.

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HOW CAN the human mind comprehend a national debt that totals almost $4 trillion dollars? That's $4,000,000,000,000.

The National Taxpayers Union has come up with one device. It asks you to take note that:

* A million seconds have elapsed in less than 12 days.

* A billion seconds took more than 31 years to tick away.

* A trillion seconds ago was back in the Stone Age, in the year 29,697 B.C.

This department took out its handy pocket calculator and did a little figuring. If a trillion seconds takes us back to the year 29,697 B.C., then 4 trillion seconds goes all the way back to 124,764 B.C.!

One other note. It took us 23 seconds to read over the above. Since the debt is rising at $20,000 a second, according to the NTU, that means the United States will be close to $500,000 more in debt in the time it takes you to read this Gallimaufry item.

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A DRIVER in town deserves a prize. We just can't decide whether it's for arrogance or stupidity.

Apparently the holder of some unpaid traffic tickets, the driver parked recently in the 400 block of North Calvert Street. Right in front of the headquarters of the city traffic department. Which includes those sharp-eyed enforcers who boot cars whose owners let their tickets accumulate unpaid. Right. The car was booted.

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