Wednesday, February 5, 2014
In his February ABA Journal column, Bryan Garner continues his long-running campaign for footnotes in judicial opinions. He argues that citations in the text make legal writing cumbersome. And he points out that while they might have been practical in the days of the typewriter, now “we can easily sweep those interruptions out of the way.”
Garner admits that not everyone agrees with him; so far, only a minority of judges has adopted his proposal. A year or so ago I was on a panel with judges and appellate lawyers, and when someone asked about footnotes in opinions, we unanimously disapproved of them. While readers of other kinds of writing may not care so much about sources, legal readers continually want to know cited cases’ names and their deciding courts and dates. It’s distracting to have to keep looking at the bottom of the page for that information.