Legal arguments represent a peculiar form of persuasive argumentation; by appealing to statutory authority, precedents as set by prior court cases and administrative legal opinions, as well as decisions rendered in previous decisions — the foundation of a legal argument rests upon the validity of that which occurred prior to one’s own case.
That is why, in making a legal argument, lawyers argue “by analogy” — via similarity of factual context, as a logical proposition: X resulted in Y; the factual circumstances in A are similar to X; therefore, A should similarly result in Y. It is not, in terms of pure syllogistic logic, a valid one to make; for the dissimilarities between A and X may well determine the outcome as to Y.
Further, familiarity with the underlying reasoning of a legal opinion is essential to making a valid legal argument. That is why non-lawyers who attempt to cite case-law and legal authorities as a basis for their Federal Disability Retirement often fail, and fail miserably: while it may be the right case-law to cite, the analogy may not fit the context. In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is not only important to create the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties of the Federal or Postal job; moreover, it is essential to make the logical and legal argument in a persuasive, effective manner.
According to an Aristotelian approach, man is indeed a rational animal, and rationality is effectively pursued through a logical methodology; but what is not stated in such an approach, is that rationality and logic do not constitute the entirety of the universe of human persuasion; legal argumentation is merely one facet of the society within which we must live; in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it may play a major part; and that is why citing the right case, making the proper analogy, and creating the logical nexus between facts and “the law”, is essential to a successful outcome in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire