Appellate Insights

Jun 16, 2020 Alana H. Rotter
What’s Your Authority For That?

Clear, concise legal writing is more important than ever, with court closures leading to motions being decided on the papers and creating a backlog for judges to sort through when the courts reopen.  Tailor your use of legal authorities to help the judge quickly see why you should win:

  • Preface a discussion of cases with a sentence or two about how they are relevant – don’t keep the court guessing until the end.
  • When describing a case, include only details relevant to the point for which you’re relying on it.
  • For any case cited in passing, include a parenthetical quoting the key language or otherwise demonstrating the case’s relevance.
  • Avoid string cites, unless your point is that multiple courts have come out the same way on a controversial proposition.

►  The practical message:  Ruthlessly edit your legal arguments.  Strip away citations and details that don’t add anything, and concisely explain why the authorities you do cite support your position.