In Making the Case: The Art of the Judicial Opinion
, (1) Paul Kahn draws the judicial opinion
into the centre of our field of vision and invites us to join him in inquiring into the role that it plays shaping our legal and political communities, and in seeking to understand how it does its work.
Specific rhetorical characteristics of judicial opinions
It is worth adding that judges' writing styles have likewise faced criticism--often for the length of judicial opinions
, but also for other shortcomings, such as lack of clarity and consistency.
can yield great historical benefits as primary sources.
It may strike you as odd, when you think about it, as to why a court that communicates with words would need someone assigned to explain to the wordsmiths of the media--and sometimes to the public itself--what judges meant by the collections of words in their judicial opinions
. But today, we take it for granted that public information officers are essential to the operation of a state supreme court, and although in the abstract I find this to be curious, I was happy to have worked with the Supreme Court of Missouri's Communications Counsel, Beth Riggert, who is participating in this symposium.
POSNER, THE ESSENTIAL HOLMES: SELECTIONS FROM THE LETTERS, SPEECHES, JUDICIAL OPINIONS
, AND OTHER WRITINGS OF OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, JR.
So the communicative context of judicial opinion
writing involves common knowledge that includes a rich set of background assumptions and the opinions themselves provide a rich description of the legal and factual context in which the decision was made, but the practices that govern opinion drafting and judicial conduct create an information poor environment when it comes to the particular purposes and communicative intentions of those who draft the opinions, whether the drafters are judges or their clerks.
independent (though not unrelated) attributes of judicial opinions
Not everyone, however, is so pleased with PACER, which is an Internet-based service that allows attorneys, litigants, and other interested parties to access docket sheets, judicial opinions
, and other documents related to federal cases.
All the rest is, as the lawyers say, obiter dictum--"A judicial comment made while delivering a judicial opinion
, but one that is unnecessary to the decision in the case and therefore not precedential (although it may be considered persuasive)." (1) Thus, although certain limited parts of a court's opinion are law, the remainder of the opinion gives guidance about how the law might develop in the future.
Students who are given the facts, issues, and arguments can engage in a "Judicial Opinion