Want To Write Like Justice Kagan?

We’ve talked before about how Justice Kagan is one of the Supreme Court’s most interesting writers. A thoughtful new article by Laura Krugman Ray, Doctrinal Conversation: Justice Kagan’s Supreme Court Opinions, builds upon that topic by exploring some of Justice Kagan’s most effective writing tools. Here are a few that make Justice Kagan’s work so reader-friendly:Official Informal Portrait choice

Kagan often opens a sentence with a direct invocation to the reader:

  • Consider first what the two statutes tell a slaughterhouse to do”
  • Imagine the converse of the statute described above”
  • Pretend you are financing your campaign through private donations.”

She uses a “generous sprinking” of informal and even colloquial diction:

  • “If the Confrontation Clause prevents the State from getting its evidence in through the front door, then the State could sneak it in through the back. What a neat trick—but really, what a way to run a criminal justice system.”

She reaches for familiar similies and metaphors from outside the legal sphere:

Her parenthetical commentary “establishes a bond with a listener – a change of tone that suggests shared sensibility”:

  • “S. 812 contained numerous items, including a title on importing prescription drugs (no controversy there!), that may have caused its failure.”
  • “The only differences are that Cellmark is a private laboratory under contract with the State (which no one thinks relevant), and that the report is not labeled a ‘certificate.’ That amounts to (maybe) a nickel’s worth of difference: The similarities in form, function, and purpose dwarf the distinctions.”

H/T: Wall Street Journal Law blog.