Friday, December 21, 2012

105-page Opinion Too Long for 11th Circuit Judge

In a case recently decided by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge J.L. Edmonson agreed with Judge Ed Carnes in upholding the defendant’s murder conviction, but refused to join in Judge Carnes’ opinion because of its 105-page length. Holsey v. Warden, 694 F.3d 1230 (11th Cir. 2012). 
Judge Edmonson noted that “longish opinions always present a strong possibility of error lurking somewhere in the text,” and make it difficult for readers to distinguish the holding from dicta. Id. at * 1274.  In his concurrence, Judge Edmonson quoted Mark Twain:

 If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today.  If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.

Id. at 1274 n 1.*

*This case is interesting for several other reasons.  The defendant was charged with and convicted of the murder of a police officer.  He argued he was ineffectively represented after his trial lawyer’s quart-a-day drinking habit came to light.  The lawyer later was prosecuted and disbarred for stealing client funds.      

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Company is an "It"

In speech, we often refer to a company as "they."  This makes sense, at least to some degree, because a company is run by people, and any company act is the result of decisions made by those people.  However, for legal writing purposes, a company is an "it" and acts individually as an "it," not collectively as "they."  Thus, for example, you should not say, "Citigroup laid off some of their employees this week."  Citigroup is a corporation and, therefore, laid off some of its* employees.  The sentences below offer more correct examples:

The judge found INS Insurance Company breached its duty to act in good faith toward its insured.

The company argued the defendant was an independent contractor because it paid the defendant by the job rather than by the hour.

A corporation many not represent itself in litigation; it must hire counsel.  

*More to come in the future on the it's/its distinction