Judge Concurs to Say Majority Opinion Is Too Damn Long

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Although he concurred in the result of the decision last Thursday in Holsey v. Warden, Judge J.L. Edmondson of the 11th Circuit wrote separately to say he did not join in the opinion itself only because, at 104 pages, it was just too long:

I stress that [my refusal to join is] not because the opinion says something that I am sure is wrong or I am sure is even likely wrong. I agree with much of the opinion, at least. But the opinion says a lot and says more than I think is absolutely needed.

In general, he said, the more words you use, the more likely it is you'll make a mistake somewhere (something Mitt Romney would probably agree with right about now):

In my experience, longish opinions always present a strong possibility of error lurking somewhere in the text. That the opinion writer is a skilled and careful judge does not eliminate the risk….

I should say that I, broadly speaking, do not agree that the length of an opinion necessarily reflects the thought, labor, and care that has been invested by judges in their endeavor to decide the case correctly. The shorter opinions often reflect the greater study and thought leading up to the ultimate decision. Mark Twain touched on a related idea: "If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare."

Plus, he noted, nobody wants to read the goddamn things:

Furthermore, no one wishes to join in an opinion that they do not understand fully. It is hard, time-consuming, painstaking work for the panel's other judges to check long opinions, line by line, cited case by cited case. (Of course, always other cases are awaiting decision and also demand the judges' time and attention.)

I'm going to assume that he did, though, read the whole goddamn thing and "understand [it] fully," despite the impression I also had after that first quote that maybe he just hadn't read it all that closely. (I guess he did say he "agree[d] with much of [it]," which supports the view that he read it all.) Ultimately, he said he was joining the result because of the required deference to the state supreme court (it was a habeas case), and his belief that that court's "determination that Petitioner did not show the required prejudice is within the outside border of the range of reasonable."

Not the most resounding endorsement, frankly, but still a second vote in favor of the majority result.

(via How Appealing)