U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

August 2015 Archives

We wrote last week about the small handful of lawyers who have had the most success as litigators before the Supreme Court, literally getting the Justices to adopt their words as the Court's own. Those ten attorneys stand out among even the most elite of Supreme Court practitioners, dominating an already small cadre of 66 lawyers who control Supreme Court litigation.

Of course, their expertise -- and success -- doesn't come cheaply. A single hour with the top Supreme Court litigators costs more than the average American family earns in a week.

Use active verbs. Keep your sentences short. Don't dwell too long on case history. Win in the Supreme Court. At least, that's the pattern identified by University of Southern California Ph.D. candidate Adam Feldman, who analyzed the writing style of Supreme Court briefs to see who had their brief language picked up by the Justices themselves.

That analysis, which looked at 9,400 briefs filed between 1946 and 2013, found a distinctive writing style associated with success in the Supreme Court. Not only does that writing help win cases, it finds its way into the High Court's opinions as well. Yep -- it's not just the law clerks who write the Justices' opinions. The most successful Supreme Court lawyers get their language in there as well.

For Supreme Court fans, and voracious readers, now's a great time to step into a book store. Richard Collins, of SCOTUSblog, recently put together a list of 18 new and forthcoming SCOTUS-focused tomes, from traditional biographies, to discussions of the legal system generally, to Court histories, political jeremiads, and academic reports.

Oh, and did we mention that Justice Breyer has a new book planned? His fourth since taking the bench, the new book is focused on American law and its connection to the rest of the world. Here's a preview of it and several of the others soon to be hot off the presses.

The Supreme Court announced that it would rehear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin on the very last day of its last term. It would be the second time the Justices had taken up the case, the first being in its 2012 term, and granting cert. didn't come quickly. The Court sat on petition for not one, not two, but six scheduling conferences before the Justices agreed to hear the case.

With Fisher, waiting was nothing new. When the Justices first heard the case, they took eight months to release a decision, an unusually long time. Turns out, that wait involved charged and bruising deliberations -- deliberations that completely changed the nature of the ruling after a scathing draft dissent by Justice Sotomayor forced the majority to back down.

Here's something you don't see -- well, ever? A cadre of ex-government prosecutors, including 20 former Justice Department officials, has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court accusing current federal prosecutors of violating the Constitution by withholding evidence regarding a key witness. The claims made in the brief aren't in themselves uncommon, but it's unprecedented to see them made by former federal prosecutors against their current-prosecutor colleagues in the Justice Department.

The brief, signed by former officials from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, was submitted to support the cert petition of George Georgiou, a Canadian businessman convicted of securities fraud in 2010, after prosecutors failed to disclose evidence regarding the credibility of a government witness.

Over the last few years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has emerged as an unexpected pop culture superstar. For court watchers, Ginsburg has long been a strong voice for feminism and liberalism on the bench, but lately she has gained celebrity status among the general public, making fans among politically minded youth sixty years her junior.

Justice Ginsburg reminded us that her celebrity was well deserved the other day, in comments she made while speaking at Duke University School of Law. Her talk was a classic mix of Supreme Court insider views, passionate political conviction, and bits of pop culture. The best revelation? The Notorious R.B.G. has been studying up on gangsta rap.