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October 2020

For “Bridging the Gap” participants

This morning, I gave a one-hour CLE presentation on appellate practice for the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Bridging the Gap webinar, a program for new lawyers. For those who attended the program (and anyone else who may be interested), here are some links and things to supplement my written materials:

The science behind plain language

Most of us know that plain language is more persuasive than legalese. But did you know that there are scientific studies proving that point? Some of that science is summarized in an article I’ve written for the upcoming 2020 volume of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing. To read the article, just follow this citation link: Raymond P. Ward, The Science Behind Plain Language, 19 Scribes J. Legal Writing 181 (2020).

Hurricane Delta court closures

The Louisiana Supreme Court and Louisiana First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Circuits have announced closures in anticipation of Hurricane Delta. Any filings due while the particular court is closed will be timely if filed when the court reopens. For the Louisiana Fifth Circuit, reopening is scheduled for Tuesday, October 13; for the other courts, reopening is scheduled for Monday, October 12. Here are the details:

I haven’t seen an order from the Louisiana Second Circuit, so I assume they’re conducting business as usual today and tomorrow.

Friendly advice from a judge to would-be amici

Here’s recent opinion by Judge Michael Y. Scudder, Jr. of the U.S. Seventh Circuit describing what is and is not helpful in an amicus brief: Prairie Rivers Network v. Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC, No. 18-3644 (7th Cir. Sept. 24, 2020) (Scudder, J., in chambers)

  • Not helpful: briefs that merely repeat a party’s argument; briefs that “serve only as a show of hands on what interest groups are rooting for what outcome.”
  • Helpful: “A true friend of the court will seek to add value to our evaluation of the issues on appeal.” Ways to do this include the following:
    • Offering a different analytical approach to the legal issues before the court;
    • Highlighting factual, historical, or legal nuance glossed over by the parties;
    • Explaining the broader regulatory or commercial context in which a question comes to the court;
    • Providing practical perspectives on the consequences of potential outcomes;
    • Relaying views on legal questions by employing the tools of social science;
    • Supplying empirical data informing one or another question implicated by an appeal;
    • Conveying instruction on highly technical, scientific, or specialized subjects beyond the ken of most generalst federal judges;
    • Identifying how other jurisdictions—cities, states, or even foreign countries—have approached one or anther aspect of a legal question or regulatory challenge.

In short, “an amicus curiae brief should be additive—it should strive to offer something different, new, and important.”

La. Third Circuit reopened

As most everyone knows, the Louisiana Third Circuit has been closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. (See this August 31 blog post.) Starting today, the Third Circuit is now reopened. Any filings that were due between August 31 and October 1, 2020 will be deemed timely if filed by October 8, 2020. To download a copy of the court’s reopening order, follow this link.)