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Judges Want Briefs to Be Shorter but Lawyers Push Back, by James B. Levy, Legal Skills Prof Blog


Often courts have local rules limiting the length of a brief. Have you ever wondered why? In everything you’ve ever heard or read about good legal writing, can you imagine a judge saying this?

“Yes, please, write a long, detailed brief. Use as many obscure legal authorities as possible. I  have loads of time and plenty of staff to look up each one. Repeat your argument several times to make sure I know how important it is. Above all, make it as hard to read as possible.

I want lengthy quotations. Ideally, make them at least a page long, if not longer. One sentence paragraphs are the best! And by all means, pile on the legalese. Verbosity and obscure language is always appreciated.”

Of course not. They simply do not have the luxury of time to read huge briefs, especially if they are poorly written. I have said before that, while working for an Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice, I literally saw a bad brief go flying across the room. The Judge, in disgust, tossed it aside, and picked up the other side’s brief. Ouch! -CCE