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String Theory, by Kirby Griffis, BriefRight Blog


String citations – a good writing tool or a bad idea? Lengthy string citations, like long single-spaced block quotations, are never a good idea. Readers tend to skim or skip a big block of text.

A good rule of thumb is to never cite more than four cases in a string. Start the string with a signal. Use a parenthetical — an abbreviated summary of the case in parentheses at the end of the citation. Keep your parenthetical no longer than two lines. Anything longer defeats the purpose of using string citations. -CCE

Your summary judgment brief contains eleven distinct legal propositions, including the standard to be applied in ruling on summary judgment. You have researched each, and have found multiple cases. You have read them and highlighted them and they are sitting on your desk in eleven stacks. You have even sorted each stack, moving the most persuasive authorities (because they are from your state and circuit, or are more recent, or are from higher courts) to the front.

Now what?

Many lawyers will just list every one of the cases in a string cite. This, they think, shows the judge the weight of the authority behind your legal claims. The judge will see nine cases listed and think ‘Wow, I guess they win that point.’

It is not so. String cites are a bad idea, for multiple reasons. . . .