January 01, 2018

Final Grades on Point Headings for the 2016 Term

Good point headings are essential to a good brief. Here’s a look at what makes them work—and not work.

Bryan A. Garner

When we’d make presentations together, my late coauthor Justice Antonin Scalia would sometimes fantasize about being able to issue grades for briefs as well as declaring winners and losers. It was frustrating, he said, how often a poorly written brief would win—yet the judges couldn’t tell the celebrating lawyers how mediocre or downright bad their written advocacy had been. If there were such a system, we might call it “fantasy judging.” So that’s the object of this article: issuing grades for one seemingly small but in fact paramount aspect of brief-writing—the point headings.

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