Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Taking Cue from the Judiciary

Trial and appellate judges alike frequently lament the poor quality of legal writing contained in briefs and memoranda of law.  I too share these concerns, as evidenced by the various posts in this blog itself.  However, it's hard for anyone to take the judiciary's complaints seriously when it publishes the following:

In an action to recover damages for breach of contract, the defendant appeals, as limited by its brief, from so much of (1) an order of the [lower court], dated March 31, 2011, as, upon reargument, in effect, vacated the determination in an order of the same court dated November 10, 2010, denying the plaintiff's cross motion, in effect, to vacate the dismissal of the action pursuant to CPLR 3216, for leave to intervene in the action, substitute himself as the plaintiff in the place of Amer-A-Med Health Products, Inc., as assignee of Heather Goldberg, Annette Guerro, and Sarah Johnson, amend the caption accordingly, and serve a second amended complaint, and for an extension of time to file a note of issue, and thereupon granted the cross motion, and (2) an order of the same court dated July 19, 2011, as denied that branch of its motion which was to dismiss the class action allegations set forth in the second amended complaint, sua sponte certified the class, and, upon reargument, adhered to the determination in the order dated March 31, 2011. 

Crystal clear, right?  Now, in all likelihood, a judge did not pen the above description, but rather an overworked and stressed court attorney who decided to use a convenient template.  Still, courts should move away from this form of sloppy writing (I can pull many other  similar examples from this court's decision list and others).  Though the decision is nearly incomprehensible,  it will enter the official reports unedited, thereby conveying the impression to the general public - and specifically attorneys - that it deems this sort of careless writing quality prose.

Simply chopping up this record long run-on sentence into several shorter ones (i.e., "Plaintiff commenced an action against defendant for breach of contract.  Defendant appealed the denial of its motion to dismiss, claiming....") would go a long way toward reinforcing the judiciary's criticisms.

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