An Abundance of Caution, by Michael Pakaluk

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*Image: Plague in Rome by Jules Elie Delaunay, 1869 [Museé D’Orsay, Paris]

By Michael Pakaluk, The Catholic Thing, March 17, 2020

Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is a professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children. …

Michael PakalukWhen I hear the phrase, “out of an abundance of caution,” I reach for my . . . decoder.  Because it’s not always a lawyer who uses it.  Actually, I know of only one legitimate use of the term.  All the rest are illegitimate because they hide the truth.

The legitimate use is pedestrian and common, but technical and not well known.  It means a mortgage where the lender requires extra collateral.  It really is extra, since  “a prudent lender would extend credit based on a borrower’s income and/or other collateral,” as the Federal Code states (12 CFR § 614.4240). Moreover, the additional collateral, “is not required by statute, regulation, or the institution’s policies.”  By definition, it’s a caution in securing the loan that goes beyond prudence.

By extension we can allow, as also legitimate, any steps of extra safeguarding which a lawyer insists upon to protect the power or property of his client.  Apparently, that was the original meaning of the phrase, in 17th law, ex abundante cautela, “by way of excessive caution.”  …


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