Monday, July 04, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Justices on Good Legal Writing

The most recent issue of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing reprints interviews with 8 U.S. Supreme Court justices on the issue of quality legal writing:
"You’re holding a one-of-a-kind volume — transcripts of Bryan Garner’s interviews with Supreme Court Justices on legal writing and advocacy."

"These pages contain a rich lode of quotable nuggets. While reading, I [editor Joseph Kimble] started to jot down some examples and wound up with three dozen. Here is just a small sampling:

• 'I have yet to put down a brief and say, I wish that had been longer' (p. 35).
• 'What the academy is doing, as far as I can tell, is largely of no use or interest to people who actually practice law' (p. 37).
• 'I love But at the beginning of a sentence . . .' (p. 60).
• '[G]ood counsel welcomes, welcomes questions' (p. 70).
• 'So the crafting of that issue . . . Man, that’s everything. The rest is background music' (p. 75).
• '[T]he genius is having a ten-dollar idea in a five-cent sentence, not having a five-cent idea in a ten-dollar sentence' (p. 100).
• 'I can’t bear it [legalese]' (p. 141). 'Terrible! Terrible!' (p. 156)."

"It’s all here, from thoughtful responses to pointed questions about writing and oral argument, to fascinating facts about the Justices and their interests. (Justice Ginsburg took a class from Vladimir Nabokov. Justice Breyer likes Stendahl.) And while the Justices naturally disagree on some things, you’ll find themes that run through their answers — themes about clarity and simplicity, honesty and accuracy, overlong briefs (and opinions), rewriting and re-rewriting, attending to grammar, anticipating the other side’s arguments, the primary importance of briefs in decision-making, and the professional need to cultivate strong writing skills."
[Source: Law Librarian Blog]

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:38 pm


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