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December 2008
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February 2009


satire     1: a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn     2: trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.”  Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 1035 (10th ed. 2002).

“I am always excited and think I am about to see some great and epic satire and commentary every time I read a pleading which begins ‘COMES NOW...’, a letter which begins ‘Enclosed herewith please find...’ or contract which uses ‘said’ frequently. I am always disappointed when I realize it's intended to be a serious document.” Dan Hull, What About Paris? (Jan. 16, 2009).

For Louisiana practitioners

The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal has made a welcome change to its rules, effective January 1, 2009, to cut down the volume of paper filed with the clerk. Here are the changes:

  • In civil appeals, a party must file an original and 4 copies of the brief. (The old rule was 7 copies.)
  • In criminal appeals, a party must file an original and 2 copies of the brief. (Again, the old rule was 7 copies.)
  • A party seeking a writ of any kind must file an original and 1 copy of the writ application with all exhibits. (The old rule was original plus 3 copies.)

In addition, the court will e-mail its oral-argument dockets to counsel of record at least 30 days before the date fixed for argument. If the court has no e-mail address for a lawyer, then it will fax the docket to that lawyer. The court will send the docket by certified mail to unrepresented parties.

Please note that these changes apply to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit only. For other circuits, check the Uniform Rules and that court’s local rules.


The American Dialect Society has released 2008’s Words of the Year. The overall champ is bailout, defined as “the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.” Finalists in various categories include the following:

  • Most useful—Palinesque: Pertaining to persons who have extended themselves beyond their expertise, thereby bringing ridicule upon a serious matter.
  • Most creative—recombobulation area: An area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which passengers who have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order.
  • Most euphemistic—scooping technician: A person whose job is to pick up dog poop.
  • Most likely to succeed—shovel-ready: Used to describe infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available. In the same categor,  –licious: A suffix which connotes desirability or attractiveness of the thing whose name it is combined with.
  • Election-related—hopey-changey: Derisive epithet incorporating Obama’s two main buzzwords (also dopey hopey changey).

Hat tip: The Word Blog.

One more CLE opportunity

In composing my last post, I neglected to mention Writing Techniques for Winning Cases, to be presented by Gary Kinder in Chicago, IL (Mar. 6), Washington, DC (Mar. 27), Los Angeles, CA (Apr. 17), and Houston, TX (June 19). I have to confess that I don’t know much about Gary or his seminar. But the program description looks promising:

Lawyers often mistake forceful advocacy with belittling the other side’s case, exaggerating their own case, and berating opposing counsel. Not only are these and similar tactics professionally irresponsible, they also annoy judges.

In Writing Techniques for Winning Cases, Gary Kinder emphasizes the importance of ethics in writing a persuasive brief and shows lawyers: how to make judges want to decide for them, how to shape a case for impact, how to get the judge’s attention, how to present a case quickly and cleanly, how to capture a judge’s imagination, and how to create arguments no opponent can deny.

CLE opportunities

If you’re looking for some good legal-writing CLE, then check these out:

  • Between February 3 and April 1, Bryan Garner will hit the road with his Advanced Legal Writing & Editing seminar. Tour stops are in Detroit, MI (Feb. 3), Kansas City, MO (Feb. 6), Miami, FL (Feb. 20), Louisville, KY (Mar. 3), Nashville, TN (Mar. 9), Austin, TX (Mar. 17), Houston, TX (Mar. 20), Phoenix, AZ (Mar. 24), and Dallas, TX (Apr. 1). He will also teach his Advanced Legal Drafting seminar in Phoenix, AZ (Mar. 25) and Dallas, TX (Apr. 3). Several years ago, I attended the Advanced Legal Writing & Editing seminar, so I can assure you that it will be well worth your time and money. I’ve never attended the Advanced Legal Drafting seminar, but if it’s a typical Bryan Garner seminar, it too will be worthwhile.
  • On May 29–31, the ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers will holds its 14th Appellate Practice Institute at Northwestern Law School in Chicago. This seminar is unique in that it requires registrants to do some work. It’s like a moot-court workshop. A few weeks before the seminar, registrants will receive record and must write and send in a short brief (15-page limit). During the seminar, each registrant presents oral argument to a panel of three faculty members (two judges and one seasoned appellate attorney). Both the brief and the oral argument are critiqued. I attended this seminar when it was held in New Orleans in (I think) 2000. It’s very good, especially for younger lawyers. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a registration link on the CAL web page. So I’ve taken the liberty of scanning and uploading the flyer, which you can download by clicking here.


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Odds and ends

Here are a few things I spotted yesterday that are worth a look:

  • The origins of error, by John McIntyre. The errors John speaks of are “rules” that don’t exist—things like split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions (both okay, but proscribed by the misinformed). How do these myths get started? John explores some possible answers.
  • Proofreading tips, by Ken Adams. Adams is a contract-drafting expert, but his tips apply to any type of writing.
  • Ideas for blog posts, by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. If you write a blog, you probably hit the occasional creative dry spell. Lynn’s ideas may help you get through those dry spells and keep your blog’s content fresh.