Definition of Pettifogging

What does the term "pettifogging" mean? What is meant by the term "pettifogging"?

In the first day of the Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, Chief Justice John Roberts, serving as the judge in the trial, used the word "pettifogging" while admonishing both sides.

The meaning of the term Pettifogging is explained in this article.  When was the word first used  in the justice system?Here is what Chief Justice Roberts had to say:

"In the 1905 Swayne trial, a senator objected when one of the managers used the word 'pettifogging' and the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used. I don't think we need to aspire to that high of a standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are."

"Pettifogging" is defined as when people "place undue emphasis on petty details". So, let's say that two companies agree to a massive merger, but they can't agree on who will be the first company to announce the deal to the public. This would be an example of "pettifogging".

In the context of the Senate impeachment trial, the two sides were slinging all kinds of accusations back and forth at each other, and it was quickly turning into something that resembled a verbal bar brawl.

By invoking the 1905 Swayne trial and the argument over the use of the word "pettifogging", Chief Justice Roberts was basically saying - look at the standards in which the 1905 Swayne trial was conducted, where the two sides argued over the use of the word "pettifogging". Compare your accusations of "cover-ups" and "sham trials" to the decorum maintained in the 1905 Swayne trial, Chief Justice Roberts was implying, and you will quickly see how ridiculous and out-of-bounds both sides are being.

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