Monday, February 4, 2019

DJ Columns

Image result for twinkle little batToday's DJ features PJ Gilbert in Blind as a Bat: On bats and rules for writing opinions, which I violate with agonizing regularity. PJ Gilbert responds to the January 4 DJ letter charging appellate justices with writing "unreadable, dense, wordy" opinions by saying he is "compelled to agree." He then lays out his "self-imposed rules concerning writing opinions (which also apply to writing briefs)":
1. Start with the briefs, but recognize the cited cases are not always pertinent and the issues not always fully developed.
2. Opinions should succinctly state the nature of the case, the issues or questions to be decided, the holding, the pertinent facts, a discussion that gives reasons for the holding, and a disposition.
3. Troubling issues are sometimes best analyzed by writing decisions going both ways.
4. Opinions should be interesting and persuasive, free from obscurity or ambiguity.
7. Short sentences are more powerful than longer ones. Use active verbs.
8. Make opinions short, even if it takes longer to write. Keep cutting.
9. Avoid wordy turns of phrase (e.g., "in connection with") and adverbs.
10. Be wary of adjectives.
11. Do not use nouns for verbs.
12. An opinions should be an essay that is logically sound.
13. Verbs must agree with subjects in number.
14. Use parallel construction.
15. Use footnotes sparingly. They are good for citing long statutes.
16. Decide the case with reasonable dispatch.
17. When done writing, set it aside a while and then come back to edit it later.
"Unlike the poet who writes to understand, write to be understood."

Moskovitz on Appeals presents part 2 of Resolving Appeals Faster, addressing what courts can do to decide appeals quicker: (1) make more justices available by filling vacancies promptly and funding more research attorney positions; and (2) "Appoint presiding justices who have the ability, experience, and interest in administration -- and the interpersonal skills needed to ride herd over strong personalities whom you cannot fire (the other justices)."

Here's a nice (and possibly useful) paragraph from today's concurring/dissenting opinion from Judge Egerton:
The question is legislative. California is blessed with an active, informed, engaged, attentive legislature that is in session year-round. Our legislature can hold hearings to investigate the dimensions of this statewide situation. All interested parties can receive notice and an opportunity to be heard. Legislative compromises can be proposed, debated, adjusted, and revisited. This court can do none of that.