A great American trial lawyer and appellate judge.

U.S. Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson said in his opening statement as chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials decades ago:

That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.

Blawgletter recalls, from law school, excerpts of Justice Jackson’s speech about Supreme Court advocacy.  His Honor’s recommendations included:

One of the first tests of a discriminating advocate is to select the question, or questions, that he will present orally. Legal contentions, like the currency, depreciate through over-issue. The mind of an appellate judge is habitually receptive to the suggestion that a lower court committed an error. But receptiveness declines as the number of assigned errors increases. Multiplicity hints at lack of confidence in any one. Of course, I have not forgotten the reluctance with which a lawyer abandons even the weakest point lest it prove alluring to the same kind of judge. But experience on the bench convinces me that multiplying assignments of error will dilute and weaken a good case and will not save a bad one.

Blawgletter’s memory stems from an article, yesterday, about Chief Justice John Roberts’s views on oral arguments.  The Chief suggested that lawyers pay more attention to questions from the bench.  "I would try today to be much more receptive, try to process more effectively, ‘Now what does that question tell me about what that judge is thinking?’ and respond rapidly rather than trying to stick to my script," Roberts said.

Blawgletter hopes to remember Their Honors’ sage advice.

Barry Barnett

Feedicon14x14_65 Subscribe free.