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Garner Argues For Footnotes In Judicial Opinions, by Legal Writing Prof, Legal Writing Prof Blog


Count me as one who disagrees with putting citations in footnotes. Mr. Garner has advocated this position for some time, and he has won some converts.

When I am reading a brief or opinion, I want to look at the citation at the time I am reading the argument. The strength of the authority will influence how persuaded I will be by the argument. Because persuading the reader is basically what legal writing is all about, I do not want my reader to lose focus or be distracted in any way. For me, having to move my eyes down to a footnote to find the authority used for an argument would tedious and irritating. I am afraid that I will never agree with Mr. Garner on this point. -CCE

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. . . .

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