Justice Clarence Thomas is widely known for his notable silence during oral argument, a deliberate practice borne out of the notion that he can learn more about a case by listening than through talking. But, don't mistake for Justice Thomas' silence for indifference, for he holds some strong views on the elements of persuasive legal writing, which he reveals in this exchange at Harvard Law School. For example:
"What I tell my law clerks is that we write these so that they are accessible to regular people. That doesn't mean that there's no law in it. But there are simple ways to put important things in language that's accessible. As I say to them, the beauty, the genius is not to write a 5 cent idea in a ten dollar sentence. It's to put a ten dollar idea in a 5 cent sentence.
That's beauty. That's editing. That's writing."
Suffice it to say that I echo Justice Thomas' beliefs about how there is a certain beauty in simplicity. I only wish Justice Thomas would speak more about the subject. Like Judge Kozinski, he has a lot to share on the topic of written advocacy.
Hat to Legal Writing Prof.