Friday, May 9, 2014
In the latest issue of the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, Bryan Garner continues his series of interviews with judges. This time he talks with five United States Court of Appeals judges to collect some inside information about brief writing and oral argument. Here are some of the judges’ pithy quotes:
Judge (and former Chief Judge) Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit said a lawyer should know why the court has jurisdiction. He imagines having a button he could press to send a lawyer out to the street if the lawyer can’t explain the basis for appellate jurisdiction. “Because if we don’t have jurisdiction, why are we here?”
Judge Pierre Leval of the Second Circuit said the first thing he looks at in a brief is the argument headings “to get a sense of what’s involved.” Then he can read the facts in context.
Chief Judge Sandra Lynch of the First Circuit said many lawyers look “frozen” when a judge asks a question. But instead, they should think, “This is a great way that I can hit a few more balls out of the park; I can help my case.”
Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit likes briefs written in “simple, clear sentences.” And he likes “a story that flows so you can tell what it’s about and why . . . something I can follow easily.”
And Chief Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit finds it “common to see a brief that is frustrating because you have a feeling you’re on a treasure hunt. You get some idea what the lawyer is trying to say, but the lawyer isn’t presenting the point as clearly as he or she should. And it takes a while to ferret out what you think the real point is.”
For the full interviews, see Volume 15 of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing. It’s not up on line yet, but hard copies are available.