“Substantial compliance with the law.”
This was one of a couple legal concepts/phrases brought up at the special meeting of the City Council last week.
City attorney Thomas Ryan mentioned it when discussing the shifting deadlines lately for candidates interested in running for City Council.
I might have scoffed to myself.
“Substantial compliance?” I’ll be sure to bring that up next time I’m stopped by an officer of the law on some road somewhere.
“Yes, officer, perhaps I was speeding a little, but you see, I wasn’t going that fast so clearly I was in substantial compliance with the law.”
But it turns out this odd phrase is a real thing. Merrian’s defines it as “compliance with the substantial or essential requirements of something (as a statute or contract) that satisfies its purpose or objective even though its formal requirements are not complied with.”
So Ryan is a lawyer and I’m not. That’s why he earns the big bucks as city attorney.
It’s still a weird concept.
Another was brought up by Bill Basinger – “de minimus.” Latin, this time. Great. I didn’t bother trying to write that one down.
Members of the City Council also didn’t recognize the phrase so I feel less bad. According to Wikipedia, “De minimis is a Latin expression meaning about minimal things, normally in the locutions de minimis non curat praetor (“The praetor does not concern himself with trifles”) or de minimis non curat lex (“The law does not concern itself with trifles”). Queen Christina of Sweden (r. 1633–1654) favoured the similar Latin adage, aquila non captat muscas (“the eagle does not catch flies”).”
How does anyone get anything done with these concepts out there? They literally mean “don’t worry about it because this thing you’re worried about is so minor it doesn’t even matter, and even if it does, it doesn’t matter all that much anyway. Or else it’s close enough.”
Maybe that’s why no one has seriously brought up replacing Mr. Ryan as city attorney. They all think like that.
— Phil Custodio