MORE ON LEGAL WRITING: STRAIGHT FROM THE BENCH
The earlier post on written advocacy has led me to a blog written by an American Judge. The blog “Hercules and the Empire” is written by Federal Judge Richard Kopf and has proven to be popular in America (425,000 page views, 3,700 comments). The judge stopped blogging earlier this year but the blog is still open at http://herculesandtheumpire.com/ and well worth a read. Here we look at his post “Top ten legal writing hits when writing for a cranky federal trial judge”.
THE JUDGE’S MAIN POINTS
Some of the points are confined to local practice. However some key points are made in very straightforward language.
“1. It would be nice if you gave me a concise and accurate statement of the facts backed up by citations to the record and addressed to the elements of the case. The Court of Appeals does not give a rat’s ass about what I think of the law, but it does care (at least a little) what I think of the facts. Comprende? (For emphasis, please see use 3, and example 2, in the Urban dictionary.)
2. I have always appreciated the writing style used in the “Dick and Jane” books. In addition to being vaguely titillating (which is always a plus), even I could understand the prose without having to read a sentence twice. I wish that were true of most of the verbiage you send me.
4. If you send me a brief knowing that you will lose, but you are hoping to “educate” me, you are, in the words of the greatest of all legal minds, Gene Wilder, one “stupid, ignorant son of bitch, dumb bastard.”
5. Please don’t “bitch-slap” your opponent. It only makes me want to do the same to you, but in super slow motion.
6. Is it too much to ask you to read and follow the local rules? Remember the venerable Latin legal maxim: Rules are the opposite of sucks.”
THE KEY POINT: WRITE SIMPLY
“7. Justice Scalia writes smack. You can’t. Justice Kennedy waxes grand eloquent. You can’t. Justice Breyer writes simply. You should”
(all the emphasis are in the original text).
One interesting point the judge makes is on the use of hyperlinks.
“Unless you are retrograde (Jan’s word), or the judge won’t allow it, hyperlink to cases and citations to the record. Remember, 9 out of 10 times a law clerk—not the trial judge—is the only one closely reading your stuff. (Oh, don’t pretend to be shocked!) The easier you make it for the law clerk, the less you have to worry that the clerk will go wild”
(There is no hypocrisy here , the judge puts hyperlinks throughout the post – which make interesting reading – and viewing – in themselves)
TO THE POINT OR WHAT?
We have to get used to the language, however there are a large number of genuine points. The main one being write simply. Keep sentences short. Think Denning?
BLOGGING MAKES YOU FRIENDS
When announcing he was stopping blogging he wrote “To my astonishment, I have made several, perhaps many, friends along the way. I will maintain the e-mail address for the site, and I welcome hearing from these kind, smart (Oxford comma coming but just for fun), and thoughtful people