Writing a supreme court opinion

When the Supreme Court Justice Unanimously agrees with the decision. When the Majority agrees with the decision Concurrent Opinion: When a person agrees with the Majority of the decision, but for different reasons.

Writing a supreme court opinion

A majority opinion sets forth the decision of the court and an explanation of the rationale behind the court's decision.

Not all cases have a majority opinion. At times, the justices voting for a majority decision e. In that situation, several concurring opinions may be written, none of which is the view of a majority of the members of the court.


Therefore, the concurring opinion joined by the greatest number of judges is referred to as the plurality opinion. Normally, appellate courts or panels are staffed with an odd number of judges to avoid a tie.

Sometimes and in some jurisdictions, when judicial positions are vacant or a judge has recused himself from the case, the court may be stuck with a tie, in which case the lower court's decision will be affirmed without comment by an equally divided court.

A majority opinion in countries which use the common law system becomes part of the body of case law. Majority opinions by region[ edit ] There is a key stylistic difference between the United States on the one hand, and the United Kingdom and other common law countries on the other.

In the United States, the disposition of an appeal in a majority opinion is usually drafted in the present tense, so that the disposition is itself a performative utterance. That is, a U. In the United Kingdom and many other common law countries, the disposition in a majority opinion is phrased in the future tense as a recommendation.

For example, the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom end a majority opinion by stating that "I would dismiss the appeal" or "I would allow the appeal," while the Justices of the High Court of Australia end a majority opinion by stating that "the appeal should be dismissed" or "the appeal should be allowed.

However, even dissenting opinions may end in a present tense performative utterance, which is usually some variation on the phrase "I respectfully dissent.

This allows judges who write an opinion "concurring in part" or " dissenting in part" to easily identify which parts they join with the majority, and which sections they do not.Writing these opinions represent a dialectic between two schools of thought: One, which holds that the lawyer is supposed to give his opinion, not the sources or precedents that he relies upon.

Assignment You are a Supreme Court law clerk working for Justice Anthony Kennedy, traditionally the swing vote on the U.S Supreme Court. You are assigned the task of drafting the opinion for Justice Kennedy in the case presented below.

Associate US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, offering the gift of good writing advice.

writing a supreme court opinion

AP Photo/Steve Helber Associate Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recently sat down with lawyer and lexicographer Bryan Garner to give advice on what it takes to be a good legal writer. 4 Concurring Opinion Writing on the U.S. Supreme Court attitudinal model, judicial outcomes refl ect a combination of legal facts and the policy preferences of individual justices.

Sorcerers’ Apprentices, a book on the influence of Supreme Court clerks, found that about 30 percent of the opinions issued by the Supreme Court are almost entirely the work of law clerks, with clerks responsible for the majority of the court’s output. After two weeks of oral argument, the Court breaks from that routine to work on writing opinions.

To this end, at the end of each oral argument period, the Chief Justice circulates an assignment sheet, which lists the cases for which each Justice is tasked with writing the majority opinion for the Court.

The Supreme Court Opinion Writing Database