The Green Bag, the unconventional law review, has just announced its “Exemplary Legal Writing” awards for 2009. Among the winners are three Supreme Court justices: Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now-retired Justice David Souter.
Souter’s award is perhaps the most notable due to the brevity of what he wrote: a two-sentence concurrence in a mostly overlooked ruling from April, United States v. Navajo Nation. The ruling was a defeat for the Navajos in a long-running dispute over royalties under a coal lease. It was a sequel to a 2003 ruling by the same name, which was also a loss for the tribe. Souter’s simple and eloquent concurrence (joined by Justice John Paul Stevens), went like this: “I am not through regretting that my position in [the first case] did not carry the day. But it did not, and I agree that the precedent of that case calls for the result reached here.” To our ear, the rueful tone evokes Conway Twitty’s lyric “I’m not through loving you.”
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