How Are Parentheticals Used in Appellate Briefs (questioning whether they are helpful)

October 14th, 2013

Michael Murray has an interesting piece in Legal Communication & Rhetoric that considers how parentheticals are used in federal appellate briefs. Here is the abstract:

This Article on current practices in advocacy and briefing reports an empirical study of the use of parentheticals in federal appellate court briefs submitted between February 1, 2011, and July 31, 2011. The study was designed to answer the question: How are parentheticals currently used for rhetorical purposes in appellate briefs to explain a synthesis of authorities? The study proves that parentheticals currently are used beyond a simple informational function in citation forms for four rhetorical purposes: (1) to quote and highlight portions of authorities (“quotation” function); (2) to explain and illustrate the principles induced from a synthesis of authorities (“explanatory synthesis” function); (3) to explain and illustrate the effect and operation of public policies underlying the law in multiple authorities (“public policy synthesis” function); and (4) to explain and illustrate the narratives of success or failure among multiple cases in which the law was applied to produce a concrete outcome (“narrative synthesis” function). Parentheticals in synthesis are used at a significantly higher rate that the other common method of communication of information about multiple authorities in legal analysis known as textual, case-to-case analogical reasoning.

The article uses a fairly small sample size (50 briefs ), but it poses some interesting questions.

Update: 200 briefs were considered, not 50.

H/T Legal Informatics Blog