Friday, January 4, 2019

An open letter to our appellate court justices

Image result for j'accuseToday's DJ runs An open letter to our appellate court justices from attorney James P. McBride, who complains that appellate opinions are too long and that the world "is drowning in excess verbiage." He charges:

  • You have strayed from the traditions of legal literature. Where is the flair? You publish dense wordy decisions whereas your audience of practicing attorneys longs for flesh and blood narrative. Please leave it to professors, treatise writers, and law review students to put your decisions into perspective. Who has the time or the inclination to plod through exhaustive erudition that pours down week after week in the published decisions?
  • Ten thousand-word decisions may have started with Malcolm Lucas. His work on the California Supreme Court exhausted one's attention span. Similar ponderous writings are common nowadays. There was a time when reading the advance sheets was a beguiling, effortless pastime. Frequently new decisions linked up with attorneys' ongoing cases and projects. Timely decisions were like finding a gold nugget at Sutter's Fort. Now one must dig deeper to discover nuggets.
  • He concludes: "please spare your audience voluminous law review style decisions. We would be better served with straightforward, concise decisions in the official reports."