Friday, January 27, 2012

Yet Another Cautionary Tale Of Bad Legal Writing

The ABA Journal reports another case in which an attorney has been raked over the proverbial coals for poor writing. The title to the article - Federal Judge’s Footnote Hits Employment Lawyer for TMI in Legal Briefs - is perhaps slightly misleading. No one was actually hit. Instead, there was an unkind discussion in a footnote about the attorney's inability to get to the point and to state his case concisely. The TMI does not refer to Three Mile Island but to Too Much Information. District Judge Pratt's full opinion is here. Look for footnote 1 at the bottom of p. 2. Reading the entire footnote leads one to consider the possibility that the footnote itself might not be sufficiently concise. Excerpts from the scathing footnote -

Plaintiff’s counsel needlessly complicated the Court’s task of summarizing the relevant facts. ... Rather than identifying potential factual disputes in a concise fashion, Plaintiff’s counsel unfurled an 18-page narrative that is replete with argument and a 15-page surreply that is no better as it contains a great deal of immaterial information. ... And, for reasons that remain unclear, the brief devotes a paragraph to explaining the 15th century origin of the phrase “cat’s paw,” a legal doctrine that is inapplicable to the present matter. ... Accordingly, the Court had unnecessary difficulty excising the arguments from the facts when piecing together the background section.

No comments: