Court Opinions      
Opinion writers who can answer "yes" to all of the questions on this list can be fairly confident that their opinions will provide reasoned explanations of their courts' holdings, explanations that their readers can understand and ultimately should be able to accept. It also may come in handy when trying to accredit or discredit one.

• Does the court have jurisdiction?

• Are all the factual statements in a trial court opinion supported by references to the original depositions, transcripts, and exhibits?

• Are the questions to be decided laid out clearly?

• Are all the legally significant facts included in the statement of the facts?

• Are all direct quotations from an exhibit, a witness's testimony, or legal authority perfectly accurate?

• Have the facts supporting the losing party been stated?

• Have all issues been addressed?

• Have the arguments of the losing party been stated and adequately addressed?

• Do the cases cited stand for the propositions for which they are asserted?

• Are the conclusions in the opinion supported by clear reasoning and legal authorities?

• Is the court's ruling stated clearly and succinctly?

• Have all omissions from quotations been indicated by ellipses?

• Are all dates, numbers, and citations accurate?

• Is the opinion readable, grammatical, and correctly punctuated?

• Is any use of figurative language or humor in the opinion likely to help the reader to understand the court's resolution of the legal issues in the case?

• Have all the parties been treated with respect?

From Nancy A. Wanderer, Writing Better Opinions: Communicating with Candor, Clarity, and Style, 54 Me. L. Rev. 47 (2000) Wanderer discusses some ways that judges might improve their opinion writing by becoming more conscious of the needs of the audiences for whom they are writing.

Harrison, Jeffrey L. and Sarah E. Wilson, Advocacy in Literature: Storytelling, Judicial Opinions, and The Rainmaker 26 University of Memphis Law Review 1285 (2000)
Writing a convincing appellate brief or a judicial opinion is similar to writing a good novel.

Patricia M. Wald, The Rhetoric of Results and The Results of Rhetoric: Judicial Writings, 62 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1371 (1995). Now retired ex-legal services judge from the D.C. Circuit discusses how court opinions are really written.