"His Most Gracious Temporary Restraining Order"—Most Texan or Most Un-Texan?

What an odd locution to see in Texas court orders.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I just ran across this boilerplate, which seems to be common in some Texas courts [UPDATE: apparently all in Dallas] but, thankfully, not elsewhere:

What, are we in England, talking about Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen? I'm all for graciousness in action, but referring to a court's deeds as "most gracious" strikes me as not quite in keeping with the American spirit.

I've also seen this locution in older reported Texas cases dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, where parties "pray[ed] that your honor immediately grant his most gracious writ of injunction," and in some other almost exclusively Southern cases. Texas lawyers, any perspective on this?

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  1. “You have been bodaciously served with this most excellent restraining order.”

  2. Why do we still “pray” to courts anyway?

    1. Since the Courts have set themselves above religion, then of course you pray to them and avoid the middle-being.

  3. I’ve been practicing in Texas for about 10 years and never seen anything comparable to this.

  4. This language apparently was common in manuals for equity pleadings in the 1850s. (“May it please your honors to grant unto your orator the most gracious writ…”). What I managed to gather is that the writs of subpoena, injunction, and ne exeat regno were most gracious but the writ of certiorari was just a writ.

    1. “‘Wherefore, premises considered, this plaintiff prays that this honorable court, or any justice thereof, as the case may be, to whom this petition is presented, immediately issue or direct to be issued to the defendant herein your most gracious writ of certiorari requiring of the defendant that, yada yada yada.'” Seagraves v. Green, 116 Tex. 220 (1926).

  5. “His most gracious” is an honorific appended to the judge’s name. As in “Holy Father (the Pope), your excellency . . .” It does not refer to the TRO.

    1. That would still be cringingly servile, but the two quoted passages are clearly using the phrase to refer to the writ, not the judge (who is called “Honorable” and “Your Honor”, respectively).

  6. I’ve practiced in Texas almost all my career. I’ve been a transactional lawyer most of that time, but I litigated in the early years. I don’t recall that phrasing.

  7. “apparently all in Dallas”

    That explains it.

  8. Reminds me of an old story of a crusty lawyer who hired a young associate and tasked the associate with drafting a complaint.

    The associate came back with something that started out “COMES NOW the Plaintiff in this action, Jonathan Robert Smith, Jr., domiciled in the County of Los Angeles, to seek relief from this Honorable Court as set forth herein:”

    The crusty lawyer returned the draft, with all of that language crossed out and replaced with “Plaintiff alleges:”

  9. I’ve been practicing in Texas for over 15 years, never seen anything like that. But I do exclusively criminal law.

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