Tuesday, December 5, 2006

read the instructions, er, rules

This morning was the last class of the semester, when the memos are turned in and I lecture to exhausted survivors of the last-minute all-nighter about applying the principles of legal writing to their upcoming examinations. Among those principles is the advice, "Before you start writing, read the instructions."

I wonder whether the lawyers who provoked Judge Richard Posner's ire in Smoot v. Mazda Motors were the kind of law students who plunged into their exams with nary a thought of double-checking to see if they had followed the instructions, in this case, FRAP 28. Judge Posner bitterly complains about "the carelessness of a number of the lawyers practicing before the courts of this circuit" in failing to draft accurate jurisdictional statements, in this case, establishing diversity jurisdiction. Posner asks (rhetorically) whether the members of the court are just "fusspots and nitpickers" about such things as federal jurisdiction, or whether they are following "a duty of care that [they] are not at liberty to shirk."



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