Judge Orders You to Stop Writing Stupidly

judge robert kressel111 Judge Orders You to Stop Writing StupidlyMinnesota bankrupcty court judge Robert Kressel just sent out guidelines for lawyers submitting proposed orders to him.  It is a catalog of and prohibition against every bad legal writing practice. And it makes sense, since he eventually has to sign those badly-drafted orders.

Guideline No. 6 – Capitalization

Lawyers apparently love to capitalize words. Pleadings, including proposed orders, are commonly full of words that are capitalized, not quite randomly, but certainly with great abandon. Please limit the use of capitalization to proper names. For example, do not capitalize court, motion, movant, debtor, trustee, order, affidavit, stipulation, mortgage, lease or any of the other numerous words that are commonly capitalized.

Guideline No. 8 – And/Or

Never use “and/or.”

Okay, I admit it, I just want to quote the whole thing. Instead, here is the whole thing (PDF). Study it. Learn it. Even if you never practice in bankruptcy court in Minnesota.

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  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    The guidelines were sent out to the entire MN bankruptcy bar. Although I can sympathize with Judge Kressel’s frustration, which likely arises from the high volume of bankruptcy cases that have to be processed, the memo comes across as a list of his personal idiosyncrasies. Not only do I think that does him a disservice (because I agree in principle with all of his rules), I don’t think it’s realistic or fair to expect lawyers to memorize or even be aware of the personal rules of every judge they appear before — there are well over 100 state and federal judges in the 7-county Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It would have been better to cite to some well-recognized style manual or other legal writing treatise, such as Bryan Garner’s “A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage,” so that lawyers have a primary source to go to for their legal writing questions. Garner has separate entires in that text for “and/or” and “Capitalization” which go far beyond the Judge’s memo, although agreeing with his essential points.

  • A Literate Legal Secretary

    “I don’t think it’s realistic or fair to expect lawyers to memorize or even be aware of the personal rules of every judge they appear before”

    Hmm … don’t lawyers already have to do that? And this set of rules should be easier than most to keep up with, since it appeals to common sense and basic, good writing.

    Oh, yeah. I think I’m beginning to see the problem!

    Anyway, more power to Judge Kressel. He does need to learn the plural form of “parenthesis,” though. :)

  • Joey The Country Lawyer

    I appreciate the judge’s attempt to help lawyers write better,but I don’t like it. Why concern yourself with the use of “the Plaintiff” instead of “Plaintiff”. I don’t know that either one is better. Shouldn’t the good judge concern himself with more important matters…such as his huge caseload and not worry about minor writing idiosyncrasies?

  • SouthernLawyerGuy

    I say BRAVO! The Judge is tired of lawyer nonsense and verbosity. I guarantee that the Court tried to fix this for years by talking with lawyers in open court to no avail.

    I clerked for a USDCT Judge who insisted on having lawyers hand him unhighlighted case opinions, and had to issue an ORDER requiring counsel to bring a copy of a case for the other side – basic decency having apparently been failing in that regard so often.

    Someone above wrote: “I don’t think it’s realistic or fair to expect lawyers to memorize or even be aware of the personal rules of every judge they appear before — there are well over 100 state and federal judges in the 7-county Minneapolis-St. Paul area. ”

    I have news for you .. in my southern state, there are more than 150 judges in a 5 county area, and I can tell you that I have a desk book with about 65-70 different specific rules for Judges. I deal with it.

    I tire of reading nonsense like “Please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned at your earl iest convenience” or clients, who already have counsel, asking me to “interpret” a letter received by them (which was paid for) regarding a pending case.

    My clients get update letters now with this opening: “I hope this letter finds you in good spirits.” When I put someone under oath, my first question in NOT “please state your full legal name for the record” but “Tell us who you are.”

    Does my approach work? I’ve tried 7 cases in three years, and have lost only 1. The jurors I talked to after my last trial (which was a W) commented to me NOT on the case, but first wanted to tell me about the “bad manners” of opposing counsel who was “arrogant and snobby” … but his language, not his demeanor sent him down that path.