Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shorter and clearer, s.v.p.

I read some of this NYT piece on the Roberts Court's bloated, often ambiguous opinions. (H/t: Erik Voeten at The Monkey Cage.) The article notes, among other telling points, that the Citizens United opinions are roughly the length of The Great Gatsby (and less fun to read, one might add). The article draws on political-science research on the Court, as Voeten observes. Fine and dandy, except perhaps for that study using anti-plagiarism software to detect passages from the parties' briefs in majority opinions. Um, I'm sorry to inject a note of reality, but why the **** do parties write briefs? They want their writing to be lifted by the Court, and if litigant X (or its legal team, to be more precise) puts something well, then why shouldn't the Court take it? Sometimes you will see quotation marks in an opinion around a phrase from a party's brief, but I'm sure there are other cases where the language is closely paraphrased and you don't see quotation marks. So what? This is one of those very rare cases in which standard notions of plagiarism don't really apply.

Note: The original post has been modified slightly.

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