Thursday, June 9, 2011
The latest issue of the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (Volume 13) is a gold mine of Supreme Court justices’ observations about brief writing and oral argument. Several years ago, legal writing expert Bryan Garner conducted video interviews with eight justices. Garner graciously posted these videos on line, and many law professors have taken advantage of their availability.
Now the interviews are in print. Nearly two hundred pages of nuggets about writing grace the current issue of Scribes. Among the observations I found interesting was Chief Justice Roberts’ assertion that “the only good way to learn about writing is to read good writing.” Many of the justices stressed the importance of conciseness; Roberts said he has yet to finish a brief and wish it were longer. Interestingly, Justice Scalia seldom reads a brief’s summary of the argument, while Justice Thomas likes that section. But Thomas never reads statements of facts—he gets the facts from the court of appeals opinion.
Volume 13 is available on line, which means readers can use the search feature to find particular topics.
Garner and Scribes editor Joseph Kimble have done the legal profession a great service by making these interviews so readily available.