It is now the talk of the appellate bar nationwide. Bryan Garner has recently released transcripts of his interviews with 8 United States Supreme Court Justices. If you plan on doing any legal writing (whether it’s before the SCOTUS, another appellate court, or any where else), you need to download the interviews, available at The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (PDF), and start reading them. It may be the best free resource for appellate advocacy available anywhere. There is so much to like in these interviews. The advice is spot-on. The justices are a tremendous resource. And, best of all, the interview are incredibly engaging.
If you have time to only read one, take a look at the interview with Chief Justice John Roberts. And if you have time for two more, read Justice Scalia’s and Thomas’s. Most of the bloggers who have covered this publication also recommend these interviews. Jay O’Keeffe’s De Novo features a post titled, I am John Roberts and So Can You. The Wall Street Journal’s blog, discusses Justice Scalia’s tip to avoid legalese in briefs: “If you used the word at a cocktail party, wyou people look at you funny? You talk about ‘the instant case’ or ‘the instant problem.’ That’s ridiculous.”
Justice Scalia also agreed with Mr. Garner’s suggestion that we should complete a well-crafted brief long before it’s due and spend the rest of the time refining it.
Writing advice in these interviews is not monolithic. Chief Justice Roberts discussed how he spent much of his time writing the statement of facts and noted that “every lawsuit is a story.” Justice Thomas, on the other hand, almost never reads the statement of facts, choosing, instead, to read the recitation of facts from the appellate court. Chief Justice Roberts highlights the importance of a summary at the beginning. Justice Scalia thinks a summery is superfluous.
Bryan Garner is the co-star in every interview. His questions and comment would be worth reading, even if he weren’t interviewing SCOTUS Justices. It makes for a fantastic introduction to him if you are not already reading his work. He’s also on twitter, and he’s as engaging 140 characters at a time as he is in his booklength prose.