Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Something to Remember When Reading a Holmes Opinion

Credit: LC
In the summer of 1980 Erwin Griswold remembered calling upon Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes some fifty years earlier.   “As we went into his room he took a great big thick brief and threw it in the wastebasket,” Griswold recalled.  Holmes said, “‘147 pages long, I don’t read ‘em when they’re that long and I don’t care who knows it either.'  And then he said, ‘I don’t see why lawyers do the things they do.  First they make the point and then they put it in black letters and then they repeat it and then they put it in italics and then they say it again and then they put it all capital letters.’  He said, ‘I don’t see why they write it the way the Germans do, with emphasis and reiteration.  I don’t see why they don’t . . . suggest something and leave it to our imagination, like a questionable French novel.’”

Update: Something Else to Remember When Reading a Holmes Opinion.

2 comments:

Shag from Brookline said...

Can you identify "a questionable French novel" that Holmes may have had in mind?

Dan Ernst said...

Shag, a Holmes biographer might have this at the tip of his/her tongue, but I don't. But the French novels Holmes read are identifiable, because he recorded all his reading in the "black book," qv G. Edward White's Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self, p. 512 n. 79.