Arizona Revised Statutes consume more than six feet of shelf space. These books are the written
laws passed by the Arizona Legislature. They also contain brief summaries of appeals court decisions
interpreting some of the statutes. The Arizona statutes represent only a tiny fraction of the laws
intended to govern human affairs.
More than 150,000 new laws are passed each year by Congress, state legislatures and local councils.
In addition, countless administrative edicts are issued. To make matters worse, an untold number
of state and federal appeals court decisions interpreting, applying and overruling the law are published
The sheer volume of these laws, to say nothing of the complicated and confusing language in which
many of them are written, has produced a legal system that is incomprehensible to most. If you spent
every waking moment reading the law, you could not keep track of all the laws that might apply to
I recently read an obscure chapter in Arizona Revised Statutes captioned "State Administration
of Weights and Measures." The laws in this chapter occupy about 27 pages of type, much of it
fine print and difficult to understand. The law is intended to ensure that those who sell products
by weight, volume or count do not cheat buyers.
This is the way I would re-write the entire 27 pages:
- All products sold shall be accurately weighed, measured or counted, and if they are labeled,
their labels shall be accurate as to weight, measure or count.
- All devices used to weigh, measure or count products shall be accurately calibrated in accordance
with standards established by the national bureau of standards.
- The Arizona Department of Weights
and Measures shall ensure compliance with this law. Those who violate the law shall be punished
I am not naive enough to believe that such a clear, brief and direct law could work in our existing
legal system. Lawyers would raise challenges to it based on several centuries of court-made legal
precedent. This process would result in a series of legislative additions to the law and volumes
of court decisions pertaining to it. Eventually, we would return to 27 pages of statutes and numerous
I believe there is substantial value to keeping things simple and direct. If we cannot keep them
that way, at least we should start that way. Unless fundamental fairness becomes the only standard
against which disputes are judged, I am afraid we are doomed to bigger law libraries, an expanded
judiciary and more lawyers.