The clerk of the New Jersey Appellate Division has declared, in a posted notice to the bar, that the filing deadlines for appeals and motions, as well as the page limitations for formal and letter briefs, will be strictly enforced. Late or over-length papers will be returned as unfiled unless accompanied by a motion asking the court’s indulgence. Swimming in paper, with more than 6,000 appeals received or filed each year, the Appellate Division can hardly be faulted for its strict attitude on court filings.
Which got us thinking about the virtue of brevity. Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, one of the greatest presidential speeches of all time, in just over two minutes. Brown v. Board of Education, probably the most significant ruling in favor of human equality ever rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court, was just about 10 pages. And Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States, in which Holmes essentially provided the intellectual framework for what later became our modern right of free expression, was all of about seven pages.
Before we ourselves are faulted for saying too much, let us end by simply calling on members of the bench and bar to take note of these historical examples and to emulate them whenever possible.