Appellate Briefs – String Citations?

The last two posts covered a brief’s Table of Authorities, including proper citation form and citing unpublished opinions in the South Carolina appellate courts. This post finishes up the Table of Authorities by condemning string citations.

Judges and legal writing gurus uniformly criticize string citations. In her treatise, for example, Chief Justice Toal advises that a brief need not be cluttered with long string citations for simple propositions. One citation will do. For more significant and contested rules, three of four citations may be necessary. Yet no more is needed unless one is presenting a nationwide survey. Jean H. Toal, et. al., Appellate Practice in South Carolina (2d Ed. 2002) at 225.

Justice Antonin Scalia agrees, In his and Bryan Garner’s book, Making the Case, the authors advise at pp. 125-126 to cite authorities sparingly  and liken string citations to showing off to an unappreciative audience.

Lastly, legal writing expert Steven D. Stark, in his book Writing to Win, notes at page 159 that his has yet to meet the judge who looks at the fifth case cited in a long string and exclaims, “I love that case! You win!”

Many other authorities likewise condemn string citations, but it would be too ironic to cite them.

Please note, however, that you need at least one citation to argue a point. The Court will likely hold that a point is abandoned if unsupported by any authority. As with other areas of the law, and with life, the Goldilocks approach is best.

Has anyone else seen briefs cite a half dozen or more cases on the standard for granting summary judgment? Please let me hear from you. You can reach me here.


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