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

Penrose, Meg Mary Margaret, Supreme Verbosity: The Roberts Court's Expanding Legacy (February 5, 2019). Marquette Law Review, Vol. 102, 2018; Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-18. Available at SSRN:

Meg Mary Margaret Penrose (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

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