Rules for Legislators: Write Laws for Humans, Not Lawyers

Compare and contrast:

740 ILCS 80/1

That No action shall be brought, whereby to charge any executor or administrator upon any special promise to answer any debt or damages out of his own estate, or whereby to charge the defendant upon any special promise to answer for the debt, default or miscarriage of another person, or to charge any person upon any agreement made upon consideration of marriage, or upon any agreement that is not to be performed within the space of one year from the making thereof, unless the promise or agreement upon which such action shall be brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, shall be in writing, and signed by the party to be charged therewith, or some other person thereunto by him lawfully authorized.

Tex. Bus. & Comm. Code § 26.01

  1. A promise or agreement described in Subsection (b) of this section is not enforceable unless the promise or agreement, or a memorandum of it, is
    1. in writing; and
    2. signed by the person to be charged with the promise or agreement or by someone lawfully authorized to sign for him.
  2. Subsection (a) of this section applies to:
    1. a promise by an executor or administrator to answer out of his own estate for any debt or damage due from his testator or intestate;
    2. a promise by one person to answer for the debt, default, or miscarriage of another person;
    3. an agreement made on consideration of marriage or on consideration of nonmarital conjugal cohabitation; [and] . . .
    1. an agreement which is not to be performed within one year from the date of making the agreement[.]

These two statutes say almost exactly the same thing, but I bet you had an easier time reading the excerpt from the Texas Statute of Frauds than you did reading the corresponding provision of the Illinois Frauds Act. The Illinois statute was made to be read by lawyers, while the Texas statute was made to be read by humans. When legislators are drafting statutes, they should write in a way that everyone can understand. After all, the laws apply to everyone, not just to lawyers. I believe the Texas statute comes much closer to that mark than does Illinois' version of the same law.

(For crying out loud, even the Illinois citation is inscrutable!)