Hiding with Words: Obfuscation, Avoidance, and Federal Jurisdiction Opinions
UCLA Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 1, 1998
86 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 1999 Last revised: 26 Nov 2008
This article summarizes Professor Little's empirical study of linguistic devices appearing in the holdings of United States Supreme Court opinions. The linguistic devices scrutinized are those likely to obfuscate the meaning of communication. Comparing the holdings of federal jurisdiction opinions with those of "merits" decisions, Professor Little found that more obfuscatory devides appeared in the federal jurisdiction decisions. This finding supports federal jurisdiction scholars' view that Supreme Court Justices take license with jurisdiction rulings in order to disguise decisions on the merits of disputes, control the development of constitutional rights, or avoid difficult legal issues.
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