Supreme Verbosity: The Roberts Court's Expanding Legacy
31 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019 Last revised: 12 Jun 2019
Date Written: February 5, 2019
The link between courts and the public is the written word. With rare exceptions, it is through judicial opinions that courts communicate with litigants, lawyers, other courts, and the community. Whatever the court’s statutory and constitutional status, the written word, in the end, is the source and the measure of the court’s authority.
It is therefore not enough that a decision be correct—it must also be fair and reasonable and readily understood. The burden of the judicial opinion is to explain and to persuade and to satisfy the world that the decision is principled and sound. What the court says, and how it says it, is as important as what the court decides. It is important to the reader. But it is also important to the author because in the writing lies the test of the thinking that underlies it. “Good writing,” Ambrose Bierce said, “essentially is clear thinking made visible.”
Keywords: judicial opinion, court, judicial decision, writing, Supreme Court
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation