Friday, March 5, 2021

No Justification?

Welcome back to Questions and SCANswers. Today's mailbag brings this cry of outrage:

Dear SCAN, I see that the CRCs were changed to command left-alignment. But why are we no longer allowed to use full justification? I've been reading and writing fully justified text my entire life (books, newspapers, magazines) and find left-alignment difficult to read ... and also ugly. Signed, WTJ (What's The Justification?!)

SCANswer: WTJ is right that Rule 8.74(b)(4) (effective Jan. 1, 2020) provides: "Alignment: Paragraphs must be left-aligned, not justified." WTJ is also right that most of what we read--including legal reporters--is fully justified. So is WTJ justified to come out guns ablazing?

Here's what typography guru Matthew Butterick has to say in Typography for Lawyers: "If you're using justified text, you must also turn on Hyphenation to prevent gruesomely large spaces between words." He continues, "If I have to use a word processor for a project, I almost never justify text. Why not? Justification if actually a rather sophisticated mathematical process. The justification engine in a word processor is simplistic compared to that of a professional page-layout program. Word-processor justification can often look clunky and coarse. Left-aligning is more reliable." Butterick concludes: "the choice is yours." Well, not in California anymore!

Of course, if you choose to fully justify a brief, it's not likely to get bounced. But it's wiser to follow the rules. Also, some studies show that it's easier or faster to read non-fully-justified text. But there are studies concluding precisely the opposite. Finally, ugly is a matter of taste, and tastes can evolve. Over time, WTJ, you may get used to ragged left-margins and come to appreciate their wild beauty.

Also of note in the ABA Journal: Law student using American Sign Language wins 4th Circuit appeal

a University of Virginia School of Law student who is deaf, recently argued a federal excessive force appeal through the school’s appellate clinic, and three American Sign Language interpreters were also involved in the process. has ‘Norm of Silence’ Erodes Amid Post-#MeToo Reforms for Judicial Clerks Facing Harassment, NYU Panelists Say (the panelists included 9th Cir. Judge McKeown). At a two-day event at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu and Ninth Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown shared their thoughts on topics ranging from opaque law clerk hiring processes and workplace harassment in the nation’s courts.  You can view the video of the event on YouTube via these links: day one and day two.

Here's a great first line today from Beds (of course!):
"It is well known that in comedy and romance, timing is everything. It turns out that timing is similarly critical when it comes to a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)."