McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

During this pandemic, I’ve been researching and reading quite a bit about legislative drafting and studying some of the materials on the subject that are available to the public. One of these is the Seven C’s of Legislative Drafting, as put together by the people in the Graduate Diploma in Legislative Drafting at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada.

The Seven C’s come from addressing seven standards that experts have determined users of statutes and legislative measures expect when they read the law. The seven C’s, and their corresponding standards are:

  1. Capable of being complied with/Tell the reader what they want to know
  2. Clear/It is easy to read and understand
  3. Comprehensible/It is not obscure
  4. Concise/It uses the shortest space
  5. Complete/It deals with all the necessary points
  6. Consistent/It contains no contradictions
  7. Certain/It leaves no doubts

But what practices are used to achieve the goals of the Seven C’s and address these standards? In the program at Athabasca University, prospective legislative drafters are taught seven practices to address the Seven C’s.

  1. Analyze and plan – The drafter should have a solid idea of what they need to communicate when beginning to draft the measure. This requires having background knowledge of the bill proposal and its policy rationale as well as  an understanding of existing law.
  2. Provide a rational structure to the text of the measure – The contents of the measure are well-organized and that the statute will flow in a logical and understandable way for the reader.
  3. Follow legislative drafting standards – The drafter needs to follow the legal requirements, drafting style, and other standards in their jurisdiction.
  4. Use an effective writing style – The drafter should focus on the Seven C’s, make sure the text is easy to read and understand, write in Standard English, follow proper grammar rules, and use simple and concise legislative sentences.
  5. Choose a good presentation – The text needs to be easy to digest, which includes using short sentences and appropriate paragraphs.
  6. Provide aids to use the text – The bill drafter makes it easy for the reader to find their way around the text. This might include appropriate section headings and organizing the statute into a logical, straightforward manner.
  7. Check, recheck, and scrutinize – The drafter reviews each version of the bill as if they’re a first time reader. They will make any required changes, including eliminating unnecessary details, removing superfluous words, or shortening sentences.

You can find the transcript of today’s audio here.