Notes From Babel

Formal Definitions Notwithstanding, I Hate the Word “Notwithstanding”

with 2 comments

Try as I might, I cannot make the word “notwithstanding” intuitive.  For one thing, I can’t get past the simple fact the word is really three words.  This means that when you read it aloud in your head, it has an utterly different meaning than its dictionary definition (“in spite of; without being opposed or prevented by”).  For example, section 415.21(a) of the California Code of Civil Procedure provides:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person shall be granted access to a gated community for a reasonable period of time for the purpose of performing lawful service of process or service of a subpoena . . . .

Does this mean that “any other provision of law” does “not withstand” the rule that follows?  Or that the rule that follows does “not withstand” “any other provision of law,” such that it another provision of law is on point, it controls under the circumstances?  Intuitively, it would be the latter.  Which means that the correct interpretation of the rule—that “any person shall be granted access to a gated community…” no matter what “any other provision of law says”—is the exact opposite of what you’d think by reading the damn statute.

“Notwithstanding” is a terrible, awful, despicable word.

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Written by Tim Kowal

June 30, 2010 at 12:06 am

Posted in Language

2 Responses

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  1. Tim, I see a series here. You pointing out words that are confusing or useless. If a lawyer has difficulty with it, then I am screwed.


    June 30, 2010 at 9:34 am

    • Mark– brilliant idea. I was pondering whether the world needed another cat blogging series, but your suggestion is much better.

      Tim Kowal

      June 30, 2010 at 9:50 am

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