Pet Peeves at the U.S. Supreme Court*

[From an article in the March 17, 2008 The National Law Journal by Tony Mauro of the Legal Times]

There’s a video out there you may want to see – a web site called “LawProse Inc” on which 8 of the 9 U.S. Supreme Court justices speak about answering questions, writing briefs, arguing before the Court, and their own relationships with written words. For instance, Chief Justice Roberts thinks “lengthy citations to Web sites that are now common in briefs are an ‘obscene’ distraction ‘with all those letters strung together.’ ” Also he doesn’t like overly-long briefs, “I have yet to put down a brief and say ‘I wish that had been longer.'” Justice Breyer is bothered by the same thing, “If I see (a brief that is) 50 pages, it can be 50 pages, but I’m already going to groan,” but “If I see 30, I think, well, he thinks he has really got the law on his side because he only took up 30.”

“Justice Kennedy hates it when lawyers turn nouns into verbs by tacking on ‘-ize’ at the end, as in ‘incentivize.’ Such showy, made-up words, he sniffs, are ‘like wearing a very ugly cravat.”

“Justice Antonin Scalia can’t stand it when briefs refer to a precedent ‘and its progeny.’ He growls, ‘I think it was wonderful the first time it was used. It is trite now. Terribly trite. Get some other expression.’ Scalia also thinks that lawyers are wasting their time when they write a summary of their argument at the beginning of a brief. ‘I mean, why would I read the summary if I’m going to read the brief?’ ” But Justice Thomas disagrees: he says it’s ‘like giving you, you know, what’s going to be on TV next week.’ ”

The site also reveals that Justice Alito’s father was a one-time English teacher and he would ” ‘pick apart every sentence and every word’ of his school compositions. Justice Stevens’ mother was also an English teacher and Justice Ginsburg learned writing from Vladimir Nabokov while at Cornell.

“Justice Souter refused to talk to Garner (the interviewer). ‘He just prefers not to go before a camera.’ ”
________________________________________ *This is a June 1, 2008 posting on In Chambers…A Commonplace book of interesting legal things, Compiled by

Contact Information