Thursday, July 11, 2013

SCOTUS too verbosus?

Today's Law360 Appellate has an article titled Posner Says Justice Should Cut BS From Opinions discussing whether this term's Supreme Court opinions were too long. Here's a quote to provide some flavor:
Legal experts have long criticized the high court’s penchant for lofty and often inconcise decision-making, which they say offers poor guidance to lower courts and attorneys who must use those decisions as binding precedent.

“The longer the opinion the more likely it is not to be read carefully,” Judge Posner, who writes his own opinions, told Law360. "You’re more likely to get contradictions and statements that haven’t been very well considered. The justice who is editing a long opinion may miss something, because people get impatient.”

Another problem with SCOTUS opinions reported recently is link rot: About 30% of internet links in SCOTUS opinions are outdated. If the links don't work, then readers can't access information the Court thought was worth citing. That can't be a good think. Here's the Yale Journal of Law: Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation: The Life Span of a United States Supreme Court Citation Containing an Internet Link (1996-2010).

Today's "In Practice" column in the Recorder has an article titled 'Wobbly' Justice at the Court of Appeal (here), which criticizes the "Fourth District Court of Appeal" for "misapply[ing] the law" in a probate case, Allen v. Stoddard. Regardless of the substantive merits of the article, you can tell it wasn't written by an appellate lawyer because it only references the "Fourth District" without indicating which division issued the case, nor does it even give the case number (the initial letter of which would give away that info) or name any of the Justices -- or even provide the date of the opinion or provide a citation of any sort (Westlaw? Lexis?) for it.

A "wobbly" Justice Ginsberg bobblehead.