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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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The Intersection Between Technical and Legal Communication

Dr. Jim Stratman's research and teaching focus on the intersection of technical and legal communication, with an underlying concern with empirical methods of discourse analysis and reading comprehension research. His forthcoming book, to be published by Routledge and due out later this year, is based upon his experiences over the last decade serving as an expert witness in federal pension fraud cases under the Employment Retirement Income Securities Act of 1974 (ERISA). The book investigates how the principles of Gricean pragmatics and their recent elaboration in Information Manipulation Theory (IMT) can be of use to courts faced with deciding cases of allegedly fraudulent pension benefit disclosures. "While the legal rules under ERISA governing employers' pension disclosures may appear simple and straightforward, the application of these rules in particular cases can be very challenging," Stratman says. "Sometimes courts looking at contested disclosures can miss the forest for one or two trees: they may be looking for blatant 'slam dunk' lies, when fraudulent disclosures may use much more contextual and subtle linguistic tactics for misleading readers, tactics that only become manifest across multiple statements and even multiple documents."​