Tuesday, August 7, 2007

a lo-o-o-o-ng brief

A court's comment about an excessively long brief:  " . . . [I]n recent years we have witnessed great technological advances in the methods of reproduction of the written word. Too often this progress is merely viewed as a license to substitute volume for logic in an apparent attempt to overwhelm the courts, as though quantity, and not quality, was the virtue to be extolled. As we noted many years ago, for obvious reasons this problem never arose when ‘every lawyer wrote his points with a pen’ [citation omitted].  Hopefully, the solution to this problem will not require that we return to that system, ignoring decades of technological advances."  See Slater v. Gallman, 38 N.Y.2d 1, 339 N.E.2d 863, 377 N.Y.S.2d 448 (1975)(assessing costs against the appellant for his 284-page long brief).

As the court had noted,  "His argument wanders aimlessly through myriad irrelevant matters of administrative and constitutional law, pausing only briefly to discuss the issues raised by this appeal."  An accompanying footnote catalogs "statement of questions presented, 16 pages; statement of the nature of the case and facts, 50 pages;  . . . reproduction of statutes, 40 pages; table of contents, 14 pages; table of authorities, 11 pages; legal argument on the merits, 126 pages; and a purported explanation as to length of his brief, 4 pages. . . ."  Id. at 4, 339 N.E.2d at 864, 377 N.Y.S.2d at 450.

This might be a useful case to use as an admonition when students excessively cut and paste on their first drafts or when they argue that thoroughness demands excessive length.



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Wow. Reminds me of a recent case in which Judge Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit was so incensed at an overly long brief that he took the time to dissent from an order granting leave to file it. He wrote:

Not only do we abet the flouting of our rules, which must be discomfiting to those lawyers who abide by them, we also do a disservice to the litigants. See Ruggero J. Aldisert, Winning on Appeal: Better Briefs and Oral Argument 231 (2d ed. 2003) (“All the judges quoted in this book have one bit of advice in common: emphasize the muscle of your brief and cut out the flab.”); see also id. at 234 (“The poorest, least persuasive briefs are all too often those that the lawyer has not taken the time to reduce to its essence.” (quoting Chief Judge John M. Walker, Jr.)). Here, tightening up petitioner’s brief to conform to our rules would not only help conserve judicial resources and promote respect for our rules, it would better serve the client.

Posted by: Greg May | Aug 7, 2007 7:40:30 PM

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