Appellate Advocacy Blog

Every year, I ask my students to read a variety of articles on the use of language, especially passive voice.  For the last few years, I’ve included a 2015 New York Times opinion piece on how Texas history books use passive voice to hide the acts of pre-Civil War enslavers and make slavery sound less horrific than it was.  See Ellen Bresler Rockmore, How Texas Teaches History, New York Times (Oct. 21, 2015); see also Dana Goldstein, American history textbooks can differ across the country, in ways that are shaded by partisan politics, New York Times (Jan. 12,…
Even the best legal writers have that one word (or two) they always misuse. Which is it for you? It’s probably not the they/they’re/their debacle. Most of us have that one down. But for whatever reason, several others pop up……
In Jamison v. McLendon, District Judge Carlton Reeves drafted a powerfully written and compelling opinion that highlighted a law enforcement officer’s egregious – and unconstitutional – treatment of a suspect in violation of the Fourth Amendment.[1] Then, Judge Reeves let the officer off the hook. Specifically, Judge Reeves held that the qualified immunity doctrine shielded the officer from liability. That conclusion was wrong. By way of background, in Jamison, a law enforcement officer stopped the plaintiff (Jamison) for an alleged license plate tag violation.[2] The officer believed that Jamison had illegal items in his car, although this belief…
My colleague Diana Simon has a short article up on SSRN about the importance of transitions in legal writing, which is set to be published in Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD. The article has been on my “to read” list for a while, and I took some time to read it today. I am so glad I did, because I learned a lot (see, I just used a transition there–proof that I learned a lot). Diana divides her article into three main points (more on the “power of three” later). First, she delves into the science behind transitions. She shares…
This is a guest post by Philip Hall.  Philip is a rising 3L and a member of the Moot Court Board at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law.  After law school, he will be a civil litigator at the law firm of Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C. in Erie, Pennsylvania. Unpublished, or “non-precedential,” judicial opinions are especially misunderstood creatures of appellate litigation.  Yet they’re extremely common.  A 2019 report from the Judicial Conference of the United States revealed that in recent years, almost ninety percent of federal appellate opinions have been designated as non-precedential.  If you’ve ever cited…