Tips From the Top | Justice Roberts on Briefs and Argument

Chief Justice John Roberts dispensed some advice for lawyers during a question-and-answer session at Northerwestern University. On brief-writing, he said,

We get hundreds and hundreds of briefs, and they're all the same. Somebody says, 'My client clearly deserves to win, the cases clearly do this, the language clearly reads this, blah, blah, blah.' And you pick up the other side and, lo and behold, they think they clearly deserve to win.

Quite the admonition to temper one's argument and not to use clearly in your brief.

For the brave-heart, Roberts offered this:

You don't see it very often and it can obviously be risky, but for somebody to get up and say, 'The biggest argument against us is' whatever, 'this precedent you decided six years ago, and if you were going to follow it down the line, my client should probably lose. Here's why I think you shouldn't follow it in this case.' I think that type of an approach could be very effective.

Words to the wise.

The original article can be seen here.