, , , , ,

Don’t Mock A Legal Argument If You’re Completely Wrong, by Joe Patrice, Above the Law Blog


Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” It is always awkward when the court benchslaps your legal argument.

There are useful lessons here for all of us, not just State Farm. First, when your client is relying on the terms of a contract, note its details before you say something you will wish you hadn’t. Second, be careful with hyperbole and sarcasm when writing a brief for an appellate court.

I agree with Mr. Patrice. The opening paragraph of the Sixth Circuit Court’s opinion is worth repeating. -CCE

There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument ‘ridiculous,’ which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett’s principal argument here. The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, ‘the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions.’ But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.