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The Roberts Court and the Passive Virtues:
Last week, the Supreme Court decided a closely-watched abortion case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, in a short unanimous opinion that sent the case back to the lower courts on narrow grounds to reevaluate the scope of the remedy. Today, in a campaign finance case argued just last week, Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, the Court sent back the case in a unanimous 2-page per curiam opinion that will allow the lower court to consider an as-applied challenge to the statute. It's hard to know if two data points suggest a trend, but it will be interesting to see if the Roberts Court shows more interest in narrow and unanimous opinions than the Court did under Chief Justice Rehnquist.

  Incidentally, I'm placing my bet on the author of today's per curiam opinion with Justice Breyer. Justice Breyer likes to introduce reasons for a position using "for one thing" and "for another thing." From today's opinion:
It is not clear to us, however, that the District Court intended its opinion to rest on this ground. For one thing, the court used the word “may.” For another, its separate opinion WRTL’s challenge with prejudice characterized its previous opinion as holding that “WRTL’s ‘as-applied’ challenge to BCRA is foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s decision in McConnell.”
(emphasis added)

  No Justice uses that phrasing nearly as often as Breyer does, so I'm guessing Breyer drafted the per curiam opinion.
Dale Gribble (mail) (www):
Justice Breyer's tiresome prepositional quirks reminds me of the great Irving Younger who late in his career wrote excellent columns in the ABA Journal about effective legal writing: get rid wasteful phrases such as "case at bar, " "the fact of the matter is."
1.23.2006 11:25am
anonymous22:
Scalia also has the tiresome habit of italicizing something when he's trying to make a point. Still, he and Breyer are by far the two best writers on the current Court, and their quirks are what make their opinions more readable than than those of the other justices.
1.23.2006 12:56pm
KevinM:
I've read interviews with both former Beatles and former Pythons who said that, after working together for years, it was impossible to avoid imitating/parodying the styles of their troupe/band mates. Has anybody ever heard of a Justice stating that his/her style had been influenced by colleagues?
1.23.2006 2:00pm
Dale Gribble (mail) (www):
I agree, why italicize something? After all these are court opinions not Faulkner novels
1.23.2006 4:29pm