I'd like to read some more legal mumbo jumbo
October 15, 2009 11:29 AM   Subscribe

After reading the legal opinion posted through this FPP post, I am reminded of how much I actually enjoy reading a well written, interesting legal opinion or briefing. So. What are some other exciting or interesting legal readings, and are there good websites or other (preferably free or available in a library) resources for reading legal documents?
posted by Deathalicious to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Supreme Court Opinions
posted by Prospero at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2009

Response by poster: Just a bit of clarification, when I asked about websites or resources for reading legal documents, I really should have written, "for similarly interesting/well-written legal documents". I'm aware that there are plenty of resources for finding both legal and legislative documents online; I've used Thomas for that purpose often, for example, and I've also read up on some Supreme Court opinons as well. I'm specifically interested in websites our resources that weed out the legal gems for general reading.

I should also clarify that "interesting", for me, is different than "significant" or "important". I've read legal briefings before that centered around a topic as mundane (in reach and precedence) as a couple's divorce but had interest because of the issues discussed and arguments set forth.

The appealing thing of the Orly case is that the judge brings a certain warmth and earnestness to the language of the opinion while still providing the corresponding legal authority (is that the right term?).

What I'm really, really hoping is that some legal MeFite will pop up and write something like
I nearly spit out my coffee laughing while reading this legal brief about...
this legal brief about... reads like a thriller spy novel
...that sort of thing.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2009

Best answer: The Green Bag is an "entertaining journal of law," specializing in this kind of thing. (Here's their home page, which is less useful than the previous link.) For instance, at random I noticed this article about a judicial opinion in the form of a poem.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:58 AM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

JURIST is good for current events.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 12:04 PM on October 15, 2009

Best answer: This ruling (pdf) against Intelligent Design (written by a Bush-appointed judge, no less), is quite the read. The judge basically obliterates the entire ID movement in exquisite, well sourced detail, revealing it as a naked ruse to get religion into schools.
However, we believe that arguments against evolution are not arguments for design. Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. (2:36-37 (Miller)). As Dr. Padian aptly noted, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” (17:45 (Padian)). To that end, expert testimony from Drs. Miller and Padian provided multiple examples where Pandas asserted that no natural explanations exist, and in some cases that none could exist, and yet natural explanations have been identified in the intervening years. It also bears mentioning that as Dr. Miller stated, just because scientists cannot explain every evolutionary detail does not undermine its validity as a scientific theory as no theory in science is fully understood.
This guy deserves a fucking Nobel Prize.
posted by martens at 12:11 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of my favorite opinions is Stambovsky v. Ackley, concerning a haunted house in Upstate New York. PDF link here.

You might also want to scope out more opinions by your favorite jurists. For example, the current Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Hon. Alex Kozinski, is a notoriously witty writer. He has his own unofficial fansite, it would appear, complete with articles and opinions by him.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:18 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just a note, while looking up Santa Fe Independent Sch. Dist. v. Doe (triggered by reading the Kitzmiller v Doe ruling suggested by martens), I came across oyez.org, which actually includes oral argument recordings along with the written transcript. The oral arguments for this case are pretty entertaining, if only to hear Justice Ginsburg say break their necks, make them wrecks, buckle down, boys.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2009

Best answer: I thought that the 3rd Circuit's decision regarding the "Communications Decency Act", especially the part written by Judge Dalzell, was superb.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:11 PM on October 15, 2009

Best answer: Above the Law has (in addition to tabloidy law gossip) notable and notably written decisions. One of the judges they loved to hate was Judge Sam Kent, who was famous for an opinion accusing lawyers of drafting their pleadings with all the care of a child scribbling with crayons on a restaurant placemat, and later became more famous for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in sexually harrassing his staff.
posted by *s at 2:04 PM on October 15, 2009

Best answer: Two other great Kent opinions:

Bolivia v. Phillip Morris, 39 F. Supp. 2d 1008 (S.D. Tex. 1999).
Smith v. Colonial Penn Ins., 943 F. Supp. 782 (S.D. Tex. 1996).

Alex Kozinski, the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, is also renowned for his clever opinions. See, e.g., Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 2002) (advising parties "to chill.").
posted by ewiar at 2:27 PM on October 15, 2009

The whole David Irving libel trial (libel related to Holocaust denial) was interesting: transcript of judgement.

I'd highly recommend (the evidence and cross examination of the witnesses is fascinating) Guttenplan's book on the trial. Deborah Lipstadt's book about the trial (one of the defendants) I found barely readable.
posted by selton at 2:31 PM on October 15, 2009

Best answer: For what it's worth, Justice J. Michael Eakin of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court pens most of his opinions in verse.
posted by General Malaise at 3:06 PM on October 15, 2009

Oh, and Rhodes v. MacDonald is hilarious. Orly Taitz gets housed: "Her response to the Court’s show cause order is breathtaking in its arrogance and borders on delusional."
posted by General Malaise at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2009

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