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Brevity: A More Effective and Appreciated Means of Appellate Advocacy - Appellate Practice News

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Appellate Practice News


Posted on: Jan 17, 2017

By Libby Yin Goodknight, Krieg DeVault LLP

As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” A recent decision by the Seventh Circuit reminds us that brevity is also a more effective and appreciated means of appellate advocacy. In Pinno v. Wachtendorf, the Seventh Circuit criticized counsel for the verbosity in their appeal briefs. The opinion, authorized by Judge Posner in which Judges Easterbrook and Sykes concurred, concludes with the following statement:

And so the judgments of the district court in these two cases must be affirmed. But we do wish to comment briefly on the length of the parties’ briefs. They total 250 pages, of which 31 pages consist of the district judge’s opinion (one opinion for the two cases). The other 219 pages are the parties’ arguments. There is no justification for such verbosity. These two consolidated cases are simple and straightforward. Our opinion is only seven pages long; and while such compression is not to be expected of the parties, they should have needed, and used, no more than 100 pages at the most to present their claims fully.

(Slip Op., pp. 7-8). 

So let’s all remember to be clear and concise in our writing this year!

For the ABA Journal’s news report on the Seventh Circuit’s opinion, go here. The full opinion can also be accessed here.

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