Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Briggs v. Elliot and the Best CLE I Have Ever Attended

by Andrew Mathias

The South Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society conducted a Colloquium entitled “J. Waites Waring and the Dissent that Changed America” in Charleston on Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20, 2011. The Colloquium marked the 60th anniversary of the trial Briggs v. Elliot, South Carolina’s landmark school desegregation case arising out of Clarendon County that was consolidated on appeal with four other cases from around the country. The opinion issued by the Supreme Court of the United States in that consolidated appeal is known as Brown v. Board of Education.

The event kicked off Thursday night with a dinner at which Professor Charles Ogletree of the Harvard Law School delivered a wonderful speech concerning Briggs and the events leading up to the trial of the case.  I had the privilege of sitting next to Judge Matthew Perry and listened to him tell stories of attending the trial at the Federal Courthouse in Charleston. Judge Perry, along with hundreds of other interested onlookers, packed into the relatively small court room to watch Thurgood Marshall present ground breaking evidence. This trial was the very first time Professor Kenneth Clark took the stand and gave expert testimony based in his tests using dolls to identify psychological harm to school children. I will remember forever Judge Perry’s stories about the trial and count it a wonderful blessing that I got to hear them first-hand.

The group reconvened the following morning at the Federal Courthouse to hear from a great lineup of speakers at a day long CLE. Presenters at the CLE included Chief Justice Jean Toal; Federal District Judges Richard Gergel, Michelle Childs, and Matthew Perry; as well as several history professors. The most impactful address was delivered by Joe DeLaine, son of J.A. DeLaine. J.A. DeLaine was the minister of St. Marks AME Church in Summerton, South Carolina and helped organize the group of parents that eventually became plaintiffs in Briggs. Joe DeLaine told stories about the families involved in the law suit, the trial, and the real-life sufferings experienced by each of them as a result of their actions. The Charleston Post and Courier ran a short piece on Joe DeLaine’s speech. It provides a little more detail and I recommend that you read it.

I wish I had more time to share details of the event and the history that I learned as a result of my attendance. But, I will simply say this: the 2011 South Carolina Historical Society Colloquium was the best CLE I have ever attended and believe it will be hard to top.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

SCOTUS Justices on legal writing--A few tips, and proof that you can't please everyone.

By Kirsten E. Small

Courtesy of The Blog of Legal Times comes news that legal writing guru Bryan Garner has release the full transcripts of his 2008 interviews with various Supreme Court Justices. The BLT's article is here, and the transcripts are available through the Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (an excellent resource, by the way).

Before hightailing it over to the Scribes site to download and read the transcripts until my nerdy little heart is content, a couple of highlights from the BLT article: short briefs are better than long, avoid legalese (and the improper use of "which"), and cite the record and cases honestly. Justices Thomas and Alito think the summary of argument is important; Justice Scalia thinks its a waste of space.

Finally, be advised that Justice Kennedy does not like it when lawyers verb words.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Appeals in the digital age: Using [sic] when quoting a text message.

by Kirsten E. Small

This opinion by the Supreme Court of South Carolina caught my eye yesterday. The fact portion of the opinion involved the quotation of numerous text messages, which didn't phase me until I got to this one:

""Leav me tha f*k alone im nt gna txt u bak and I want nothng 2 do w u so jus get out mx [sic] life already."

My first thought was, "Why bother? The entire message is one long [sic]." But then I looked up the proper usage of [sic], and learned that "sic" is a word (not an abbreviation) derived from Latin that means "intentionally so written."  So, the SC Supreme Court used [sic] not to point out the unconventional (to put it mildly) spelling of the text message, but rather to indicate that an actual error ("mx" instead of "my") was original to the text message, not an error in transcription by the court.

In other news, an amendment to SC Appellate Rule 219 became effective yesterday. The amended rule clarifies the procedure for seeking initial hearing en banc by the S.C. Court of Appeals.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Fourth Circuit goes (almost) live.

by Kirsten E. Small

New Fourth Circuit Internal Operating Procedure 34.3 takes effect today. Beginning with the upcoming May term of court, recordings of oral arguments will be available for free on the Court's website, two days after argument.

The new rule takes effect just in time for the arguments on the health care law, which are scheduled for Tuesday, May 10.