Over at Legalwriting.net, Wayne Schiess has posted his observation that many lawyers fail to use an "apostrophe + s" to create the possessive of a word already ending in "s." Professor Schiess notes a connection between this tendency and newspapers’ use of this form. (Yes, it’s OK to use only an apostrophe when the word is already plural.)
I admit that I sometimes backslide when writing "court of appeals" as a possessive. "The court of appeals’s ___" often seems awkward and too attention-grabbing. Other than to rewrite the sentence to avoid the possessive (which tends to create passive voice problems), I haven’t come up with a satisfactory solution. Fortunately, Professor Schiess seems to have given those struggling with this issue a free pass.
The notion that newspapers can influence legal writing reminds me of Roger Hughes’s piece in The Appellate Advocate called Legalese in the Age of IM (Instant Messaging). If newspapers hold that kind of sway, how long will it bebefore we start seeing IM slang in legal briefs? If Roger’s tongue-in-cheek prediction holds true, it’s only a matter of time.