D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed: A New Thought on the In-Line Versus Footnote Citation Debate
While the world has focused on other things this week, a debate has engulfed a narrow, very nerdy slice of Twitter of which I am pleased to be part: Should citations in legal documents be “in-line” or in the footnotes? We don’t shy away from hard issues here at Notice & Comment. So I’ve decided to toss a new option into the debate — let’s call it Option 3.
As background, here is an image Bryan Garner has used to illustrate the two types of citation formats:
In this comparison, the footnote brief looks better. But I don’t think this is the best example of “in-line” citations. Here is an example from a brief filed a few years ago in the Supreme Court*:
And here is what it would look like with a footnote style:
Between those two, I vote for in-line citations.
But what about Option 3? Why don’t we keep in-line citations but change our treatment of “short cites”?
Here is an example of what I mean. This comes from an opinion from 2016:
It is full of “short cites” — citations to decisions cited earlier. Here is the problem. For the Supreme Court cases, I can tell from the short cite which court issued the opinion — “U.S.” or “S. Ct.” means the Supreme Court. But I can’t tell from “F.3d” which circuit court issued the decision. And there are no dates.
This is a problem! When I was clerking (increasingly long ago), I had to review many, many briefs. When I was reading a legal document, I needed to know a few things: (1) what the document says the law is (obviously); (2) which court issued the decision (I cared a lot more about binding precedent than persuasive authority); and (3) when the decision was issued (to know whether to worry about intervening authority). With these concerns in mind, in-line cites are better than footnotes cites; I didn’t have to constantly look down for purposes of points (2) and (3). Indeed, I hated — hated — footnote citations for making me constantly move my eyes up and down.
That leads me to Option 3: Shouldn’t short cites also include a parenthetical behind them reminding the reader which court issued the decision and when it was issued? So the paragraph would read like so:
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? No more having to remember which court said what and when; it would be right there, easy to find. And to the extent that efficiency is beautiful, this is very aesthetically pleasing. So come rally under my Option 3 banner (assuming I thought of this first): Keep In-Line Citations But Add Even More To Them.
This week the D.C. Circuit decided a lot of cases. So, in a variation of the * Game, I’m going to pull a short cite from each opinion; not only will you be able to imagine how much better the paragraph would be under Option 3, but you can guess what the opinions are about. It’s fun — well, kind of fun.
Note: Unless this is your field, you can probably skip this one; lots of other cases this week.
Note: If you follow FOIA, this is an important decision. All three judges on the panel (Judge Rogers = majority, Judge Pillard = concurrence, and Judge Srinivasan = dissent) wrote. Read it.
Big Bend Conservation Alliance v. FERC:
Note: Judge Katsas is a great addition to the Court. That said, although in a normal week I’d urge you to read this one, because this week overflows with law, you may have to let it pass.
Matson Navigation Company, Inc v. DOT:
Note: Judge Rogers drew a tough opinion assignment; the Court’s jurisdictional analysis is tricky. If you see Judge Rogers, tell her ‘thank you’ for diving into a complicated case.
Note: Judge Henderson cites to Judge Kavanaugh three times.
American Society for Testing v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.:
Note: Read this opinion; that’s all I have to say. Read it. Very important.
Peck v. Selex Systems Integration:
Note: There is a lot to take in here from Judge Srinivasan. That said, in a week like this, you may have to let this one pass too.
American Hospital Association v. Azar:
Note: See Big Bend Conservation Alliance, supra.
Citizens Ass’n of Georgetown v. FAA (Reissued):
Note: This originally was issued a few months ago; I’m not sure what changed — if you know, please explain in the comments.
Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA:
Note: Extended discussion of Chevron by Judge Griffith. Plus environmental law.
Note: This is an important case for sentencing issues and, because it was written by Judge Millett, fun to read. Here is a sample: “That dog will not hunt. The government admits that it never raised this issue below. So the argument is forfeited. Doubly so because the government never challenged the applicable Guidelines range at the time of the original sentencing ….” And look at the * footnote: “Judge Kavanaugh was a member of the panel at the time the case was argued, but did not participate in this opinion.”
Note: This is another interesting opinion by Judge Griffith; I’m not sure how often it will come up (for reasons you will find out when you read it), but is fascinating to read and discusses Chevron too.
Salazar v. District of Columbia:
Note: This is a Civ Pro feast by Judge Millett; if you care about Rule 60(b) — and you should — give it a read.
Kaplan v. Hezbollah; Kaplan v. Central Bank of Iran:
Note: Students, there is a case comment to be written here. Trust me. Judge Srinivasan covers a lot of ground; read it.
Note: The is another important opinion. If you practice environmental law, or think about administrative remedies, you have to read Chief Judge Garland’s opinion. There is a case comment lurking in this one too, especially about remedies.
And finally, Association of American Railroads v. DOT:
Note: We’ve covered Amtrak here many times; expect an en banc petition and probably a cert petition too. Read both Judge Millett’s majority opinion and Judge Tatel’s dissent. I would write up a full post about this one, but I’m pretty sure I will get another chance.
Wow. There is a lot of law this week — many of these cases are important and, for certain, will be cited many times in the future. When they are, won’t Option 3 make a lot of sense?
* If you wanted to see a citation, wouldn’t it have been really annoying to have to look down at this footnote?
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