Friday, June 07, 2013

Clear, concise, and effective English for law students, bar examinees, and legal writers in organizations, private companies, and government offices (07): Legal writing and oral advocacy

Bryan A. Garner’s 2010 interviews with US Supreme Court Justices, from Scribes Journal of Legal Writing Volume 13 

Justice Clarence Thomas:

I’d love one day for someone at a gas station who is not a lawyer to come up to me and say to me, “You know, I read your opinion, and I don’t agree with you.” Wouldn’t that be wonderful? “I’m not a lawyer, I read your opinion, I understood it, I don’t agree with you, but thanks for making it accessible.” So we talk of it in terms of accessibility.

Justice Stephen Breyer (in reply to Garner’s question, “Do you think it matters whether ordinary people can understand judicial opinions?”):
If an ordinary person who is not a lawyer can understand it, I think that gives weight to what the Court does, and law is supposed to be intelligible. They should be able to follow it without having to take special vocabulary courses. And the purpose of an opinion is to give your reasons, and you give your reasons both for guidance, but also it should be possible for readers to criticize the writer. Now, people can’t criticize what I say, they can’t explain why they think it’s wrong, unless they can understand.


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