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Decisions on Coffee Makers and Baggy Pants Earn Honors for Best Legal Writing

Posted Jan 5, 2011 6:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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International contract disputes aren’t usually high on legal reading lists, but there is one that should be.

A majority and concurring opinion (PDF) by two judges for the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were among the best pieces of legal writing named by The Green Bag, the legal journal known for its bobblehead dolls.

The case is full of confusing facts and a side dispute over whether expert testimony should be used to help interpret French law. In a concurrence, Judge Diane Wood says experts can be helpful, since resorting to translations can be misleading. “As the French might put it more generally, apparently similar phrases might be faux amis,” she wrote. Judge Frank Easterbrook also was a top vote-getter for a majority opinion that included photos; Judge Richard Posner was nominated (PDF) for his concurrence, but didn’t get enough votes to be declared a winner.

Supreme Court journalist Tony Mauro was one of the judges, he notes in a story on the winners at The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

Some of the other winners:

• Judge Alex Kozinski of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who won for a dissent in which he declared, “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last."

• Minnesota appellate judge Kevin Ross, who won for a decision holding that a police officer who pulled up a drug suspect’s baggy pants conducted a “wardrobe assist” rather than a search. "She hoisted his pants presumably to conceal rather than to reveal," the opinion said.

• California appeals judge William Bedsworth, who won for a Recorder column on oral argument tips. “I find oral argument is a good place to clarify [questions about the briefs], at least now that the Commission on Judicial Performance has explained to me that calling appellant's counsel at home at 3 a.m. is not considered appropriate behavior,” he wrote.

Hat tip to Legal Blog Watch.

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