THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION I GET:

“Why do you use the words parliamentary law?

I know how scary this seems to some people. Others, like members of the legal profession, seem to resent when non-lawyers toss this term around. Take, for instance, college students or members of a garden club: who are they to be talking about law? So the thinking goes. But there is a reason for why this term is still in usage:

In one simple word it’s history. In 1863, when General Robert put together a pocket manual of rules of order for meetings, he considered those used by the old British Parliament for reaching a decision. Obviously there was a need for some sort of rules-book because his became a best-seller, and is still with us (in updated editions) although many other authors have tried to simplify and change what the Brigadier General initially proposed.

Today, we know from our case studies that judges frequently disregard Robert’s Rules, even when it’s the adopted authority in an organization. Instead, the courts will consider violations of an individual’s rights under constitutional and state law provisions. Hence, I side with groups that feel the term parliamentary law should only be used by legal practitioners. But what term can we use instead?

How about majority-based decisions? Too long and cumbersome? How about just the acronym PLP (yes, we could say that historically it stands for parliamentary law and procedure, but let’s modernize it)? I’m open to suggestions, which you may email me at cami@chofstadter.com