Content-Type: text/shitpost


Subject: How to read a legal opinion
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-07-30T14:28:42
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.kerr-legal-opinion
Message-ID: <c0acd8e028ba6b0b@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy blog has written an article on how to read a legal opinion. I have found reading federal court opinions fascinating and educational. U.S. federal judges are almost always intelligent and thoughtful, and excellent writers. I recently wrote:

Even when I disagree with the decision, I almost always concede that the judges have a point. It often happens that I read the decision and say “of course that is how it must be decided, nobody could disagree with that”, and then I read the dissenting opinion and I say exactly the same thing. Then I rub my forehead and feel relieved that I'm not a federal circuit court judge.

As dense technical material, law opinions are unusual because their underlying topics are public policy issues that affect everyone, or everyday issues as property disputes and interactions with the police. So they have a relevance that, say, scientific or engineering material does not. If you really want to know what the Supreme Court said recently in connection with Masterpiece Cakeshop, you are not going to do better than to read what they actually said about it.

But like other dense technical material, court opinions are full of obscure jargon. Kerr's article explains the most important parts of this jargon and describes the overall structure of the opinions. If you think you might be interested in reading some Supreme Court opinions, but you find it hard to get your feet under you, you might give Kerr's article a try.