court opinions

More diverse than you might think

A com­mon coun­ter­ar­gu­ment I hear from attor­neys resis­tant to bet­ter typog­ra­phy is called What Judges Want. In Mad Libs for­mat, it goes like this:Sure Matthew, that’s a fine idea, but __noun __ is what judges want, because all judges are __adjec­tive phrase__.”

What goes in the blanks?
14-point type” ...old and wear glasses.”
Times New Roman”­ing on paper.”
Bor­ing typog­ra­phy” ...only inter­ested in sub­stance.”

Or any­thing, really. Because What Judges Want is based on the same faulty rea­son­ing as all broad-brush­stroke argu­ments. Whether you’ve met ten judges or a thou­sand, it’s appar­ent that they’re as dif­fer­ent from each other as attor­neys are. Why try to gen­er­al­ize?

I don’t. Rather than debate What Judges Want, I encour­age these attor­neys to rely on evi­dence. Court rules are one exam­ple.

Court opin­ions are another. If it were true that judges areonly inter­ested in sub­stance” —a favored con­tention—then we’d expect judges to put zero effort into the pre­sen­ta­tion of their own work. But that’s not the case. Sure, plenty of judges issue doc­u­ments that look awful. Just as plenty of attor­neys do. But many oth­ers appre­ci­ate that typog­ra­phy makes a dif­fer­ence.

This next exam­ple is not fic­tional. It shows recent improve­ments made by the Utah Supreme Court to the typog­ra­phy of its opin­ions.