If my opinion runs more than twenty pages

If my opinion runs more than twenty pages,” she said, “I am disturbed that I couldn’t do it shorter.” The mantra in her chambers is “Get it right and keep it tight.” She disdains legal Latin, and demands extra clarity in an opinion’s opening lines, which she hopes the public will understand. “If you can say it in plain English, you should,” RBG says. Going through “innumerable drafts,” the goal is to write an opinion where no sentence should need to be read twice. “I think that law should be a literary profession,” RBG says, “and the best legal practitioners regard law as an art as well as a craft.”

Irin Carmon, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

1 thought on “If my opinion runs more than twenty pages”

  1. For pure explanations of doctrine without regard to change, twenty pages† is probably enough.

    For explaining development of doctrine that has changed over time, twenty pages may not be enough.

    For explaining nonlegal issues and how they interface with nonlegal issues, twenty pages is almost never enough. See, e.g., Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2014) (failing to engage with how a multiperson laboratory actually works concerning admissibility of “forensic” evidence testing based solely upon a test report prepared by and attested to by someone else in that laboratory, which never identified the chain of custody nor the circumstances under which the tested samples were collected).

    † In Supreme Court-defined style. This is about 45 pages in “standard manuscript format,” even using a proportional 12-point font… depending, of course, on the number of footnotes and the number of large block quotations. Not to mention neglecting the bizarro internal citation problem. My point is just that RBG doesn’t mean “twenty double-spaced pages of draft.”

Comments are closed.