U.S. Supreme Court

BigLaw partner won't be sanctioned for jargon-filled SCOTUS petition; others are forewarned

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The U.S. Supreme Court issued a warning on Monday when it revealed it won’t sanction a Foley & Lardner partner who submitted a jargon-filled cert petition after his client refused to relinquish control of the writing.

The court’s orders list (PDF) said the order to show cause against lawyer Howard Shipley has been discharged. “All members of the bar are reminded, however, that they are responsible—as officers of the court—for compliance with the requirement of Supreme Court Rule 14.3 that petitions for certiorari be stated ‘in plain terms,’ and may not delegate that responsibility to the client,” the Supreme Court said.

According to a National Law Journal story (sub. req.) on the development, Shipley’s cert petition was “filled with obscure acronyms, convoluted sentences and technical lingo.”

Through his lawyer Paul Clement, Shipley had told the court he tried to conform the cert petition to Supreme Court style, but his client would not relinquish control over the substance. If Shipley had withdrawn, Clement argued, the cert petition could not have been filed by a new lawyer before the deadline.

Foley & Lardner spokesperson Linda Yun told the ABA Journal the firm is “pleased with and respect[s] the court’s decision regarding this highly unusual matter.”

Updated at 11:40 AM to include statement by Foley spokesperson.

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