Briefs & Things


Telephone Messages Heard 'Round the World


Denise Howell at Bag and Baggage has a post about technology that sends voice mail messages to attorneys' computers for retrieval.  The system also allows the attorneys to forward the messages just like e-mail, or even post it to their websites.  So, if you decide to have a temper tantrum while leaving a voice mail message, don't be surprised if it shows up all over the Internet.

Errors Cost Money


The ABA Litigation section has an article in the July issue of Litigation News (membership required) describing how errors in a brief cost the attorney money.  The plaintiff's attorney in Devore v. City of Philadelphia, U.S. District Ct., E.D. PA.Case No. 00-3598, petitioned for attorney's fees.

In his order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob Hart granted all of the amount the attorney requested for his courtroom work, but only half of his requested rate for written motions.  The most-quoted phrases from the opinion concern the typographical errors in the pleadings.  For example, the opinion noted that the attorney captioned his pleadings, "Easter [sic[ District of Pennsylvania."  The judge continued, "Considering the religious persuasion of the presiding officer, the 'Passover' District would have been more appropriate.  However, we took no personal offense at the reference." (Order, p. 4)

The court's most ruthless criticism, however, is directed at the substance of the pleadings.  "The Defendants have described it as 'vague, ambiguous, unintelligible, verbose, and repetitive.  We agree."  (Order, p. 3).  The judge described parts of the complaint as "nearly unintelligible," and said that the attorney's "lack of care caused the court, and I am sure, defense counsel, to spend an inordinate amount of time deciphering the arguments and responding accordingly."

Clerkship Ended


The Curmudgeonly Clerk has finished his clerkship, and has closed one of the best blogs available for giving a glimpse of how things work behind the bench.  If you find another good one, let me know and I'll add it to the roll.

Electronic Evidence


The Blawg Channel highlights a manual for dealing with electronic evidence.  Written for law enforcement, the manual also has quite a bit of information that would be helpful for attorneys working with electronic evidence in civil trials.  The manual  is available for free download from the National Institute of Justice.

Trials Becoming More Rare


According to an article in today's National Law Journal, less than 2% of all civil cases go to trial. (Thanks to My Shingle for the link.)  The article discusses the resulting difficulty that younger attorneys have in gaining trial experience.

Another effect, not mentioned in the article, is that pretrial motions become more important than ever.  Lawyers need to start invoking technology earlier -- from Internet research to electronic discovery to (of course) hyperlinked briefs.

I also now have a new favorite metaphor -- "like a rat through a python."


Clear Legal Writing


Dennis Kennedy highlights a series of posts over at Legal Underground about good legal writing, and adds his own thoughts.  Check out both blogs

Contentious Lawyers


You know the litigation is not going well when the judge writes, "Notwithstanding the history of filings and antagonistic motions full of personal insults and requiring multiple discovery hearings, earning the disgust of this Court, the lawyers continue ad infinitum."

Get the entire opinion here, and read the comments at
Begging to Differ and The Curmudgeonly Clerk.

Judges Prefer Electrons


This month, Twenty Questions interviews Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  (Thanks to Rain Man for the pointer).

Judge Easterboork, in answer to Question # 5, points out the advantages of the Circuit's Local Rule 31, which requires an electronic version (see note below) of all briefs:

 "There is one record, in Chicago, and three judges per panel. Of our 11 active judges, only 6 have principal chambers in Chicago. (Two of four senior judges who continue to hear cases also are located away from the headquarters.) Moreover, even the judges with principal chambers in Chicago often prepare elsewhere--at home, in Michigan, in Paris, or in my case in Alaska, where I escape to relax and work. Counsel must file briefs and appendices electronically, see Circuit Rule 31(e), so that judges can read wherever they find themselves. Electrons are much easier to tote around than those heavy protons and neutrons that constitute paper!"

Judge Easterbrook's answers to Questions 9 and 10 have some excellent suggestions about legal writing.

(Note: Although the court rules do not mention hyperlinked briefs, we have never had any difficulty submitting them as courtesy copies after filing the hard copy and simple electronic copy that the rules mandate.)

Rule for Us . . . Or Not


U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer has a blog covering legal humor.  He recently posted this gem of advocacy from an amicus curiae brief: "For the foregoing reasons, in the manner described, this Court may conclude either that the government has succeeded in establishing a 'separate product' for purposes of 'tying' under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, or that it has not."

The Perfect Opening Paragraph


I recently discovered a blog, A Criminal Waste of Space, by Justice William William Bedsworth of the California Courts of Appeal.  Don't miss his post about the best opening paragraph ever written in a legal opinion: “In this case we are called on to determine whether a cow is an uninsured motor vehicle under appellants’ insurance policy. We hold that it is not.”

Don't Forget the Pinpoint Cites


The Curmudgeonly Clerk, reacting to a post by The Uncivil Litigator, consigns attorneys who do not use pinpoint citations in their briefs to "a special ring of Hell."  According to the comments, though, not everyone agrees.

Legal Writing Blog


I just ran across a great blog about legal writing.  Rain Man discusses such topics as the difference between "persuade" and "convince."  Be sure to scroll down for the discussion about when to use quotation marks.

Quote of the Day


"The difficult task, after one learns how to think like a lawyer, is relearning how to write like a human being."  Floyd Abrams

IE Security Flaws


According to this article in Information Week, Microsoft has released information about yet more security flaws in Internet Explorer.  Some of these are pretty serious.  A number of lawyers, such as NetLawTools have announced their intention to switch to another browser.  According to this article at ZDNet, other Windows-based browsers also have some security flaws.   Macintosh and Linux browsers seem to offer the best security to date.

Creating Your Own Electronic Briefs


Brian Peterson has posted some helpful suggestions on his weblog about creating electronic briefs.  Our process differs only in a few minor details.  For example, unless we are running short on space on the CD, we download case law in word processing format.  It is easier to add highlighting in text format, and when you convert the text into a PDF document, it is automatically searchable.  If you download the case into PDF format, you will have to run it through the "Capture" feature to make it searchable.

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